Speedo-clad Santa’s brave chill to warm hearts at Sick Kids Hospital

It may have been a chilly minus 2 degrees outside, but that didn’t stop 50 fundraisers from stripping down to their Speedos over the weekend in an effort to raise money for the Hospital for Sick Children.

Pairing skimpy red swimsuits with Santa hats, brave participants jingled bells and wished shoppers a “Merry Christmas” as they ran through the streets of Yorkville in the Seventh annual Santa Speedo Run.

Event organizer Matt Freeman led the pack from Hemingway’s restaurant and offered a few tips for coping with the cold: “Think warm thoughts. Drink heavily afterwards,” he said. “The shock of the cold lasts for about the first minute and camaraderie just keeps everyone warm.”

The three-kilometre run has raised over $180,000 since 2005, Freeman said, and in providing playthings for children enduring long stays in hospital, hopes to “allow them to act like kids.”

For first-time participant Jason Avergal, it’s a cause that far outweighs bearing the wintry conditions, and bearing more than a little skin.

“There’s lots of kids out there that, unfortunately, don’t get to benefit from a lot of the stuff we do today, so this is our way of helping out,” he said.

While turn out for this year’s event was modest, at less than half that of previous years, Freeman said the amount of money raised per participant is expected to be higher. And as Toronto’s runners hang up their Speedos for another year, he hopes to encourage people across Canada to don lycra for donations next Christmas.

“I actually don’t live in Toronto anymore, I live in Vancouver, but I come back every year to this event because I’m very much committed to Sick Kids,” he said, adding he’d also like to take the fundraiser out west.