By Wendy Sarubbi | February 15, 2013 9:06 am

With temperatures in the high 70’s and not a cloud in the sky, February 9 was a perfect day for a brisk jog in Central Florida. And for hundreds of charity-minded runners, it was also a perfect day to run in their underwear. The fourth- annual “Cupid’s Undie Run” raised money in Orlando for the Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF). The organization helps families and patients dealing with Neurofibromatosis (NF,) a complex of tumor disorders that affect the nervous system and can lead to hearing and balance problems and facial paralysis.  “Undie Run” took place in more than a dozen cities across the United States, including Washington, D.C., Seattle and Atlanta.

Dr. Cristina Fernandez- Valle, a professor in the UCF College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, is a Neurofibromatosis specialist and has worked with the Children’s Tumor Foundation for over a decade. She helped organize a team of UCF students in this year’s run. She said events like the Undie Run allow supporters to put the “hilarity back in charity.”

“It really does raise awareness because if you see a crowd of people running in colorful red underwear or shorts, it makes people stop and listen to what Children’s Tumor Foundation is,” said Dr. Fernandez- Valle. Much of Dr. Fernandez-Valle’s research is based on discovering compounds that can cure Neurofibromatosis. The Florida  Translational Research Program recently provided $500,000 in funding to her joint research project with the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at Lake Nona to identify drug targets for the disease.

UCF’s Undie Run team was bolstered by dozens of undergraduate students who joined the race. Pre-med student David De Wit spearheaded the efforts on the main campus. “When I first started, it was just me, so the first thing I did was start tabling on campus. We had a great turnout there, and students were really interested in what the Undie Run was all about,” he said. Officials with the Children’s Tumor Foundation are currently calculating the proceeds from this year’s Undie Run.

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