Like many things during the holiday season Matt Freeman’s annual Toronto Speedo Santa has become something of a family tradition.
It involves dozens of people running through the streets of Yorkville in speedos and/or bras raising money for Sick Kids. And within this group are faces that head Santa Freeman has come to know – though he admitted he is notoriously bad with names.
“Seeing the faces and the people every year [is my favourite part]. We had people the first couple years that were coming out with their friends living the single life and eventually we saw them come with partners, then coming out as married couples, then coming with their kids,” Freeman said.
This year’s run marked the event’s return from its 2016 hiatus. Hemingway’s Restaurant, the multi-level pub where participants gathered to begin, was packed with around 40 people decked out in increasingly-ridiculous outfits.
Freeman started the event in 2005, inspired by a similar fundraiser in Boston. As for the choice of charity, Freeman said he was influenced by his long hospital stays when he was an “accident-prone” kid. More specifically, he chose the Sick Kids Toys and Games fund.
“The challenge is how do you let kids in the hospital have an experience that is authentically child-like…make them feel like they’re kids that have toys, have games and let them play,” Freeman said, adding that the fund also matches the run’s general air of fun and “irreverence.”
Timothy Chan was one of the people enjoying the vibes of the event. He returned this winter for his sixth year.
“It’s nice for one second to hang up your grown-up cape and be a kid again,” Chan said. “Just frolicking in the streets, enjoying Christmas, enjoying the festivities and the same time raising money for a good cause.”
And he frolicked through some pretty cold weather this year with temperatures dipping as low as -2 C on the cloudy Saturday of the event.
Fundraisers gone wild
Speedo-clad Santas aren’t the only wacky fundraising groups to come to Toronto.
The Fight To End Cancer is one of those other events. Conceived in 2011 to benefit the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, it brings together a group of white-collar men and women to literally fight each other in an Olympic-style boxing event. Making it even more over-the-top is the fact that the only participants that are chosen are those that have no experience boxing.
A slightly less violent event is the annual Power Ball, hosted and benefitting The Power Plant art gallery. This gala has premium prices, starting at $175 per person, and has become known for its over-the-top art installations, trendy crowd and awesome style. Past themes have included alternate realities and the principles of pleasure.
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What these fundraisers all have in common is their focus on supporting a good cause.
Freeman expected to raise anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 this year, adding on to the $320,000 that the run has already raised for children’s toys and games.
What more could Santa ask for?