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Cupid’s Undie Run draws hundreds at Fenway Park

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Cupid’s Undie Run draws hundreds at Fenway Park

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By Mridhu Khanna, news correspondent

More than 500 people ran through Fenway Park Saturday during the annual Cupid’s Undie Run in an effort to raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation for Research, which researches neurofibromatosis.

The race was one of many held in cities across the country. Participants ran approximately a mile in their underwear or costumes and then gathered inside the House of Blues for a party with drinks, games and dancing, said Kaitlyn Greenleaf, the race director.

“Its unique how many charity events have a pantless party,” Greenleaf said. “There’s always that ‘oh god I have no pants on’ moment. As more people fill up the venue you realize you’re all there for a good cause and it’s definitely a fun time.”

Some runners chose to wear costumes and themed underwear during the Cupid’s Undie Run in Fenway. / Photo by Jake Wang

Fundraising efforts are focused specifically on finding a cure for neurofibromatosis, or NF, a genetic disorder that leads to tumor growths on nerves throughout the body. There is currently no cure for any of the three forms of NF, which vary based on symptoms and age of diagnosis. However, treatment can help manage the symptoms, which can include chronic pain, bone deformities and vision loss.

“There has been a lot of progress in the last year and a half on treatments on reducing tumors’ sizes,” Greenleaf said. “It’s been awe-inspiring and amazing for me to personally see pictures of other race directors’ kids and see the ‘before and after’ of tumors and how they’ve shrunk thanks to research.”

About one in 3,000 people are affected by the disease, which can be inherited or caused by a gene mutation, according to the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Participants at the event included those who have the disease, friends and family members.

Many runners chose to wear red in honor of Valentine’s Day. / Photo by Jake Wang

James Tanelli participated for the second time with is wife at this year’s run. His 5-year-old son was diagnosed with the disease but hasn’t begun to show symptoms. While his son has been “happy go lucky” so far, he knows the worst-case scenario would be leukemia.

“The scariest part was walking in the first time to the cancer area,” said Tanelli, speaking about when his son was initially diagnosed. “It’s such a rough little thing no one knows. I’d never heard about it.”

While raising awareness and funds to find a cure for NF draws most people to the event, Tanelli said many participated for the opportunity to run through Fenway Park in just their underwear. Greenleaf said the race’s venue is one of its best selling points.

“Boston is the only Cupid’s Undie Run to run through an MLB park,” she said. “Being able to say that you ran through Fenway Park in your undies is a pretty unique thing.”

Some runners ran in American-flag patterned underwear. Others were dressed in all red for Valentine’s Day, complete with red leggings and a tutu. Some runners decided to wear costumes: One woman dressed as a bee, complete with wings.   

Some runners claimed that beyond supporting neurofibromatosis research, they were excited to run because the course included Fenway Park. / Photo by Jake Wang

The event raised just under $133,000 of its $195,000 goal, with the most successful team raising more than $42,000. Tanelli’s team raised a few thousand dollars. While the run has been the main fundraising effort of Cupid’s Charity, the overseeing non-profit based out of Denver, Greenleaf said that the organization has been diversifying its fundraising efforts.

Greenleaf has been involved in Cupid’s Undie Run since 2016, first as a runner, then co-director and finally this year as the director. She and directors for races in other cities volunteer their time to the cause. When she first ran, she hadn’t personally been affected or known anyone affected by the disease. Her time as a director has introduced her to many stories of how NF affects patients and families.

“It’s heartbreaking to lose a child that hasn’t had the opportunity to grow and fulfill their life,” Greenleaf said about the death of a fellow director’s child who had NF. “When there’s a million things going and when you think, ‘The last thing I want to do is more work for this volunteer gig,’ you remember the kids and you’re like, ‘This is why I do what I do.’”

Greenleaf was pleased with the turnout, but the goal for Boston will always be to grow as an event. In a large city with research and medical facilities, Greenleaf said she’d like to see more awareness and participation.

“I’d love to be able to sell out the House of Blues and really make NF known to the city of Boston,” said Greenleaf. “As a community we can help end NF.”

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Cupid’s Undie Run draws hundreds at Fenway Park