Fourth Annual Santa Speedo Run brings funds, awareness to HIV programs

By : Steve Blanchard
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Tampa – Santa never looked so good or so sexy.

That’s because more than 140 people participated in a one-mile charity run wearing little more than skimpy swimwear, Santa hats and swimwear. It was all part of the AIDS Service Association of Pinellas’ fourth annual Santa Speedo Run on Dec. 1.

“Participation was comparable to last year,” said ASAP’s Jay Aller, who organized the run. “It was tough this year because we competed with the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and the Hurricane Showdown softball tournament in Fort Lauderdale.”

Aller took advantage of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, falling on a Sunday to present the annual fundraiser. While the significance of the day made the run more appealing to some, travel plans for the holiday weekend made it more difficult to participate for others.

Next year, Aller plans to move the run back to mid-December, so it’s closer to the holidays.

“Fundraising might be easier next year if it’s more in line with the holiday season,” Aller said. “I’ve already looked through survey responses from our runners and it looks like our runners want a later date. It makes sense and we can build more momentum on fundraising pages.”

Registration for each runner cost $35, and every participant received a t-shirt and a souvenir medal/ornament with the run’s logo and year. Shirts were also available to purchase by observers.

As of press time, the Santa Speedo Run raised just over $21,000 for ASAP and it’s Brighter Seasons for Children program. Aller is hopeful that extending donations through the holidays will help the organization reach its goal of $45,000.

“I’m going to send out literature to not only our runners, but to all of ASAP’s constituents to share the importance of donating,” Aller said. “It’ll be my year-end appeal.”

Donations can be made online at SantaSpeedoRun.org. There, those feeling generous can donate directly to the organization or via an individual runner’s donation page.

Either way, the money lands with ASAP.

“The Santa Speedo Run funds, firstly, our Brighter Seasons for Children account,” Aller explained. “It helps our clients who have children by providing those families with a little bit of extra money during the holidays, and that means Christmas, Easter and even back-to-school time.”

Of ASAP’s 1,000-plus clients, 125 of them have children, according to Aller. And many of those clients are low-income, making $23,000 or less a year.

“A mother with two kids who is low-income will take care of her kids rather than taking care of herself and her HIV medication,” Aller said.

HIV medication, even with insurance, can cost more than $14,000 a year, Aller added. That doesn’t leave much for necessities like rent, groceries or electricity, much less holiday celebrations.

“We want these parents to be able to help provide for their kids and remain healthy,” Aller said. “In addition to support and services, we provide $25 gift cards for each family during the major holidays to use for meals, gifts, or whatever they need.”

ASAP services families on both sides of Tampa Bay.

Looking ahead
Plans are already underway for improving the Santa Speedo Run in 2014. Aller is working on forming a committee and appealing to a broader base, especially women. Expect to see a new contingent of participants in the “Mrs. Claus and Bras” event held at the same time.

“My hope is that it grows to be more like the San Francisco Santa Skivvy Run, where girls and guys are encouraged to participate,” Aller said. “I’ve already checked in with the city to see about code violations on this one. It’s important that runners wear swim suits and not underwear.”

Aller said that this year’s participants were good about following guidelines when it came to attire.

“Honestly, when people come with their Andrew Christian underwear, I cringe a little bit,” Aller laughed. “But our runners seem to understand what is acceptable to wear.”

Also expect the run to be affiliated more closely with the GaYbor District’s list of holiday events in 2014. If the run can garner 300 or more runners next December, Aller is hopeful that the run could take place along 7th Avenue, Ybor City’s main drag, rather than Palm Avenue, which is just north of 7th.

“It costs more to close 7th Avenue than Palm Avenue,” Aller explained. “We need the numbers to justify the cost to the city and we’re hoping that businesses come on board next year to help us promote and grow this event into what it should be.”

Photos by Nick Cardello.

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