Santa Speedo Run returns to Ybor Dec. 14

By : Zach Caruso
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Tampa – Santa Claus is coming to town. And so is Mrs. Claus—in a bra.

The 2014 Santa Speedo Run will return on Dec. 14 to Centennial Park in Ybor City, and this year it will be host to a brand new co-event dubbed “Mrs. Claus in Bras.”

“Last year we had some volunteers come to us and say, ‘We’d really like to have some girls participate in this,’” said Jay Aller, AIDS Service Association of Pinellas resource development manager. “So some of the volunteers came up with this idea of naming it ‘Mrs. Claus in Bras,’ so this event now benefits our children’s program and our women’s group. It was a way to show the community that this isn’t just a guy’s event, it isn’t just a gay event. Everyone is welcome to come out and participate.”

Tampa is on board with the change—although it took some work.

“It took a while for us to talk to the city of Tampa and for them to give us the ok to have girls run around in their bras,” he explained. “Once they came to that decision that it was ok, we went full steam ahead with it.”

And the guidelines for participating girls?

“As long as the areolas are covered, we’re good,” Aller said with a laugh. “We don’t have any written guidelines on the website yet other than ‘no thongs.’ We hold this event in Ybor for a reason.”

Aller explains that the inclusion of the new Mrs. Claus in Bras portion of the run is a great addition that will see donations go to ASAP’s women’s group, as well as sticking to the run’s tradition of helping a children’s organization.

“The base idea for the run came from a group of guys in Boston around 15 years ago,” he explained. “They wanted to raise money for a children’s cancer center and they got this crazy idea to collect donations for the challenge of ‘We’ll run a couple miles in the snow in the winter in Speedos if you donate so we can give it to the children’s cancer center in Boston.’ It grew and grew, it spread to Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, there are versions of it all across the United States, and about five years ago we decided to start it down here. ”

And every year, locals are surprised to learn that ASAP does have a children’s charity under its umbrella.

“We have a program called Brighter Season for Children, which is a program to help kids of parents who are infected with HIV,” Aller said. “We give them Christmas gifts, back to school supplies, we throw parties for Christmas, Easter, and a lot of things throughout the year.”

Aller says that the cost of living for the average Pinellas County resident coupled with the high cost of HIV treatment is staggering, and ASAP’s Brighter Season for Children aims to offset some of those costs.

“The average yearly income of the typical single family household in Pinellas County is around $25,000, and once you factor in rent, electric, water, groceries—those types of things— then factor in a year’s worth of HIV medication, that money doesn’t cover it all,” said Aller. “A mother who is living with HIV is going to buy something for her children before she goes to pay for her medication. That’s just a mother’s way, she’s going to worry about her children before she worries about herself. So we try to give them that little extra boost, give them the Christmas gifts that their kids want so that they can still take care of their own health.”

Aller and the ASAP team are no strangers to setting goals to help the community—and exceeding them. September saw the 11th annual AIDS Walk Tampa Bay event surpass previous years by raising a record $222,000 in donations, a feat Aller said contributed to this year’s ambitious addition of Mrs. Claus in Bras.

“The success of that event really relit a fire under not only in the fundraising department, but also the staff of ASAP,” he said. “It was encouraging to see just how much of the community does support us. HIV and AIDS aren’t front page stories anymore, you see things online now about fighting Ebola, or the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—there are more people infected by HIV in the state of Florida than there are people affected by ALS in the entire United States.

“In fact, it’s triple—somewhere in the 90,000 range of people infected with HIV in Florida, and around 30,000 affected by ALS in the United States.”

Aller also said that the success of this year’s AIDS Walk Tampa Bay has helped build momentum for the success of the Santa Speedo Run.

“We have commitments from Bright House Networks, Clear Channel Outdoor, so we have two weeks of TV air-time, four weeks of billboard space, Clear Channel Radio, iHeart Radio FLZ,” he said. “I feel we the success of AIDS Walk this year is helping get media outlets on board talking about the cause.”

And with that local media attention comes attention from the rest of the country, as Mrs. Claus in Bras seems to be catching on already.

“I got an email from the director of the Charleston [South Carolina] Santa Speedo Run asking if they could use the ‘Mrs. Claus in Bras’ name because they loved the idea,” he said. “Who knows, I could see it being spun off into its own event eventually.”

For more information on this year’s Santa Speedo Run, and to find out how to register and donate, visit ASAPServices.org/SantaSpeedoRun.

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