CHEYENNE – Sub-zero temperatures, snow and a pandemic couldn’t keep about 20 Cheyenne residents home from the city’s third annual Cupid’s Undie Run Saturday afternoon.
“I’m ready for it,” said David Roney, a local mechanic and repeat participant in the race who was wearing nothing but a red-and-white knit beanie, kiss-print briefs, matching socks and red running shoes. “Kids are fighting for their lives, the least I can do is run a mile or two to support them.”
It was so cold Saturday – the low was 16 degrees below zero – Roney and the other runners only went around the block near Danielmark’s Brewing Company, which hosted the event. Nonetheless, by Saturday morning participants had raised a total of $3,400 to find a cure for neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves. The disease affects one in every 3,000 births.
“The reason we run in our undies is because neurofibromatosis causes very disfiguring tumors, and so anyone affected by it can’t hide – they’re exposed all of the time,” said Melanie Manchester, race director and bartender at Danielmark’s. She helped decorate the bar with pink and red tinsel streamers, and her ensemble of red Chuck Taylor’s and a pair of shorts announcing “I’m with Cupid” complemented the upbeat mood inside the brewery. At the heart of the festivities, however, was the reminder of its mission.
“If these kids can go through life with these tumors then we can do this,” Manchester said
The run in Cheyenne is part of a national annual event, and Manchester, who first ran in the Denver race several years ago, brought the event to Cheyenne after empathizing with families affected by neurofibromatosis. But because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of races happened virtually – Cheyenne’s was one of the few locations to hold the run in person this year.
“We’re lucky enough to be able to do an in-person event,” said Manchester, who added that the low number of participants made it easy to plan a socially distanced race. After the run, the brewery hosted a silent auction and a raffle, which included gift baskets from local distilleries valued at a total of roughly $1,000, as well as a Cajun-style shrimp boil. “Hopefully we’ll be able to raise a little bit more.”
Jacee Cotton, a local optometrist, donated $265 ahead of race day and arrived at Danielmark’s Saturday wearing a pink tutu and a headband with heart-capped horns. She’s participated in the race for five years, and for her, it’s a chance to have fun while raising awareness about neurofibromatosis – a disease she’s seen upend lives.
“It’s a tough disease,” said Cotton, who worked closely with a family dealing with their son’s diagnosis. “The tumors can be found anywhere along the nerves. As optometrists, we can find them in the iris or the optic nerve.”
That family, who now lives in Salt Lake City to access treatment for their son, first told Cotton about the Cupid’s Undie Run several years ago. “I like to run, and it’s a good cause,” said Cotton, who went to the Denver event for a couple of years before it came to Cheyenne. “I’ll keep doing it.”
Cold weather has been the standard of every year’s race, but Cotton said those conditions were “nothing compared to today.”
The money raised by Saturday’s frigid less-than-a-mile run will support the research of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, and donations are still being accepted online through the end of February at, https://cupids.org/.