Cupid Strikes the West Side Highway

Runners in Manhattan support a charity group by wearing their underwear.

Cupid's Charity runners participate in undie run along the West Side Highway.

Cupid’s Charity runners participate in undie run along the West Side Highway

Driving down the West Side Highway on Saturday afternoon, you may have seen wings on the back of a man wearing nothing but underwear and heart shaped accessories along with a group of drunk half-naked people running in 21 degree weather.

No, cupid isn’t early for Valentine’s Day, and he doesn’t have an army of 100. 

Cupid’s Charity, a non profit group that raises money for research for neurofibromatosis, a rare condition causing tumors on nerves and in the brain, was hosting the clothing-free, red and pink-filled fundraiser. 

One of the runners was Amanda Slew. She prides herself in doing really crazy things for good causes.

“I can get behind this 1,000 percent,” said Slew. “I want to help these people and I want to do it in a way that spreads love and body confidence.”

Amanda Slew & Sandra Bragaglia prepare for the undie run.

Amanda Slew & Sandra Bragaglia prepare for the undie run.

This year’s Cupid’s Undie Run, hosted in partnership with the Children’s Tumor Foundation raised about $50,000 for neurofibromatosis research, by gathering people to run one mile alongside the West Side Highway. With winds up to 11 mph and temperatures hovering in the 20s, the run wasn’t exactly comfortable for the over 100 participants, who began on 48th street wearing nothing but their undies.

“It’s a good cause and it’s another reason to get away from home,” said Jennifer McConnell, who came down from Syracuse and attached a picture of her 20-year-old daughter Chloe, who has neurofibromatosis, on to beads around her neck with a paper clip. 

Jennifer McConnell wears a picture of daughter Chloe who has neurofibromatosis.

Jennifer McConnell wears a picture of daughter Chloe who has neurofibromatosis.

Those with the condition can suffer from learning disabilities and physical changes to the skin and bones. There is no cure for neurofibromatosis.

McConnell raised about $4,000 for the fundraiser alongside her sisters and nieces. Their group was the second highest fundraising group in New York. This was McConnell’s sixth year running in her underwear. 

Jennifer McConnell runs with family in the Cupid's Undie Run.

Jennifer McConnell runs with family in the Cupid’s Undie Run.

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For newlyweds Carlos and Alicia Fraga, the undie run has been a yearly tradition since they first started dating six years ago. 

“Where else are you gonna come on Saturday afternoon, get drunk and hang out in your underwear with a bunch of other crazy people,” said Carlos Fraga. “And on top of that it’s a great cause.”

This year Carlos and Alicia raised $400 after joining in last minute just a week ago. 

“I wish there was more,” said Fraga. “I’ll go anywhere that let’s me run around in public in my underwear and not get arrested.”

Carlos & Alicia Fraga take pictures at the photo booth.

Carlos & Alicia Fraga take pictures at the photo booth.

Before and after the 15-minute run, the charity hosted  a party on two floors of the nightclub Stage 48 with a DJ, glow sticks, multiple photo booths and an open bar for those who raised $250 or more. 

“Even though we’re running in our underwear, we really aren’t. It’s kind of like the same thing as bathing suits,” said Sandra Bragaglia, a fourth year returning runner. “You have the polar plunge, we have the Cupid’s Undie Run.”

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