Matt Mathosian and his wife, Kristen, raise money every year and run a race in a very unconventional way in hopes that they will find a cure for their son, Kyle.
Kyle, 15, has neurofibromatosis, or NF, a tumor disorder that is caused by the mutation of a gene that is responsible for control of cell division. Tumors grow inside and outside of the body.
According to the Children’s Tumor Foundation, neurofibromatosis occurs in 1 in every 3,000 births.
“Every day is different. Every day is a challenge,” Matt Mathosian said. “A lot of families have family members that have tumors or cancer. And NF-1 is not different. Cancer is cancer. I think that we all kind of work the same. We get up every day and deal what we have to deal with.”
For the past three years, the Mathosians and their friends have raised money – this year nearly $13,000 – and run a race in February to raise awareness for the disease.
Dressed in an assortment of undergarments and colorful costumes, the Mathosians and hundreds of other people ran a half a mile loop down Glenwood Avenue to Northwest Street in Raleigh. Some wore tutus and wings, as if they were Cupid.
It’s called Cupid’s Undie Run.
During the run, supporters raised signs that said ‘thank you.’ And as the runners crossed the finish line, they were met by high-fives and words of encouragement. Then after the race, they party.
The run comes after a yearlong effort to raise money for research. Raleigh participants have raised more than $56,000 this year through efforts including car washes and bake sales. All of the money goes to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
The race was started in 2010 in Washington, D.C.
A man named Chad Leathers, who had a brother with neurofibromatosis, and a group of friends wanted to come up with a fun, wacky fundraising idea that would bring in a lot of money for the foundation, Jennifer Burnette, Raleigh’s race director, said.
“They decided, hey let’s get a bunch of people together to run in our underwear through the snow in D.C. in the middle of February,” Burnette said.
Now it has reached 36 cities around the U.S., including Raleigh, and two in Australia.
She said the reason people run in their underwear is because people with neurofibromatosis are uncomfortable every day.
“We put ourselves in a little bit of an uncomfortable situation for a little bit,” Burnette said. “People really respond to it. I mean who doesn’t want to run in their undies.”
Normally the race is intended to be run in the cold. But Saturday in Raleigh, the skies were partly cloudy and temperatures reached 66 degrees.
Matt Nordin, a resident of Virginia Beach and avid runner, was dressed in red, white and blue from his toboggan to his suspenders and shorts, while carrying an American flag. Nordin said this was the second race he participated in this year. He ran the same run last week in Virginia Beach and wanted to do it again.
“I try to do all the charitable foundation runs as much as I can and it was only three hours away, so why not do it again?” he said. “I think this (foundation) is awesome and that’s why I support it.”
Mathosian, the neurofibromatosis parent, said every time he participates in the race, he feels like he’s running with family, with others who care about finding a cure. He said he hopes the event will attract more people in the future. And maybe one day, his son and others will be saved.
“I think people don’t really understand that a tumor really is cancer,” he said. “And I feel like if we could get more people to understand that everybody knows somebody, then I think we could do better and find a cure if we work together as a team.”