Friday, March 21, 2014

Chiditatrod 2014: Part 1

Round two of my weekend was Chiditarod, the annual Chicago drunk shopping cart scavenger hunt/bar crawl race across the city to raise money and food for food banks in Chicago. An event that was sort of started by the local Chicago Burner community. Krueger had turned me onto this a few years ago, and I happened to be in country in 2011 on race day, so I went and watched the take-off, hung out at a bar, and had a generally good afternoon of it. Since it was Chiditarod day, and Mardi Gras was that night, I figured I might as well enjoy myself and wended my way toward the Ukrainian village to hang out with the crazy people who were about to run through the still-freezing streets of Chicago with decorated shopping carts while raising money for charity.

The reality is that this is an awesome event. The drunkness and bar-crawl bit aside, the fact remained that the event this year brought in over 30,000 dollars for the food bank they worked with, and close to two tons of durable stable goods, which is what made this so awesome. Here we are in the middle of the worst winter on record in this city in years, and well away from all the happy Christmas donation surplus. The need for donated food never really went away, but having done a bit of volunteer work in a smaller food pantry when I was an Americorps volunteer, I knew how much the stocking of any reasonably well-used pantry was very much feast or famine. There was always a lot more giving at the end of the year, and a lot less at the beginning. The thinking was “Didn’t we just do that?” while the reality was people that relied on food pantries and food banks never stopped being hungry. It was always a race against time.

Chiditatrod, with its funny costumes and drunken hilarity while jogging up and down the city streets may seem like just a fun good time, but it took months of volunteer work to coordinate the locations, put out the word, gather the people, and get the permits. The volunteers put in easily hundreds of hours for a one-day even that would last barely three hours in the afternoon on a frigid Saturday. The people who benefit most from the run would likely never see it, but it didn't make it any less astounding what this event accomplished.

I wanted to get out in time to be at the starting gate, and for some reasons decided against my extra layer of clothing, I mean, it was going to be all of 37 F (3 C) today, practically a heat wave. After standing at the starting gate for an hour, though, I started to seriously question my logic and reasoning, but worked to keep myself entertained by jumping up and down and talking to people.

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