Santas in Speedos raise funds for Vital Bridges

Mon. December 12, 2011 1:34 PM by Brett Anthony

jeff colgan (left) and karl sponholtz (right) with jay cavey

photo credit // anthony meade

Chicago runners wear less, brave cold for a good cause

Chicago, IL - Some 50 Speedo-clad runners braved the freezing temperatures and stripped down to raise nearly $3,000 for Vital Bridges during the Santa Speedo Run in Andersonville on Saturday, Dec. 10.

Runners and supporters alike gathered at The Sofo Tap, 4923 N. Clark, for the first annual event spearheaded by Karl Sponholtz and his partner of 11 years, Jeff Colgan.

In an interview with last week, the couple said they anticipated 20 or 30 people would participate, but according to Sponholtz on Saturday, "the community came out to blow that goal right out of the freezing water."

In total nearly 140 people packed into the popular north side bar, which provided heat, drink specials and additional support that included a $450 donation.

"The crowd support was fantastic and totally unexpected," said Eric Sodorff, who participated in the run. "I didn't realize so many people would know we were running, so that totally helped with the adrenaline."

After gleefully singing "Jingle Balls," a carol written by Sodorff, the participants, both male and female, shed their running clothes in favor of red Speedos to run a chilly one mile though Andersonville from The Sofo Tap north on Clark to Balmoral and back.

"Every one of our Santa's ran the full mile course without injury. We had official ‘Santa Warmers' on hand just in case it got too cold," joked Sponholtz.

Sodorff confessed that shots back at The Sofo Tap helped him thaw after the blistering cold run. "My hand were like ice by the end and my nipples were rock hard," he said. "I was glad to be back for a shot of Jaeger."

Awards were presented in a number of categories including Best Wrapped Package (Kyle Wood), Sexiest Santa (Frank Guerrero), Funniest Santa (Mike Swafford as a polar bear), Best Non-Santa (Jay Cavey as the Christmas tree) and for the Santa who raised the most money (Alan Catallo as Rudolph, who raised $275).

The Santa Speedo Run was originally brought to Chicago from Boston, where it has become a tradition since the first event in 2000. The Chicago variation, which took place Saturday, Dec. 3, was started to raise awareness for diabetes.

Saturday's run was a special LGBT event to benefit Vital Bridges, an organization that assists people throughout Chicago impacted by HIV and AIDS.

"Despite a brisk 28 degrees, people came out of the shops, salons and restaurants to cheer us on, snapping photos and honking horns," said Sponholtz. "It was a wonderful event!"

Sponholtz and Colgan are already planning next year's Andersonville Santa Speedo Run with updates coming to

"I will have a new song for next year," promised Sodorff. Photojournalist Anthony Meade contributed to this report.

Related: View photos from the 2011 Andersonville Santa Speedo Run