Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students donate clothing to people in need through the Nearly Naked Mile

By Stuart Foster

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Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian

(Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian)

In the brightness of Friday’s late afternoon, hundreds of students huddled together behind a starting line in the Northeast Residential Area Quad. Some were decorated in body paint, while some wore elaborately designed costumes, but most wore the bare minimum: underwear.

As the students stretched out and warmed up, a voice counted down the number of minutes remaining until they could start running. The Nearly Naked Mile, a fundraiser designed to donate extra clothing for the needy during Homecoming Weekend, was about to begin.

The Nearly Naked Mile was established at the University of Massachusetts by the Student Alumni Association and is in its fourth year. Students who register are required to donate at least one article of clothing, which is then given to the Amherst Survival Center, before running a mile from the Northeast Quad to the Southwest Residential Area.

“We wanted to start a homecoming tradition that had a philanthropic component,” said Dianna Bronchuk, a senior communication and sociology major who is the vice president for traditions in the Student Alumni Association.

The Nearly Naked Mile is part of an ongoing relationship between the ASC and UMass, which also consists of people involved with the University volunteering at the Survival Center, donating items such as food and holding a similar event to the Nearly Naked Mile, the Dash and Dine 5K race, in the spring.

The organizers of the Nearly Naked Mile contact the Amherst Survival Center in advance to confirm that they can accept the clothes as donations, which the ASC is happy to do.

“All the good quality items that get donated are usually on our racks within days and go home with people who need them,” said Tracey Levy, the program director at the center.

Although the mile run began at about 5 p.m. on Friday, runners were showing up an hour beforehand to have their bodies painted and talk with other people participating in the event.

Different organizations on campus were present at the event, including the fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and the UMass Beautiful club, which promotes body positivity.

“We just want to make everyone confident about the way they look,” said Adrienne Gagne, a junior psychology and philosophy major who is the president of UMass Beautiful.

Gagne explained how running throughout campus with minimal clothing could cause some people to feel anxious and how the UMass Beautiful club had a presence at the Nearly Naked Mile to inspire body confidence.

Students who ran in the Nearly Naked Mile said they were attracted to the idea of getting rid of old, unused clothing in a way that helped the community.

“The run is to give clothes to people who don’t have any,” said Christina Kazalis, a senior who is majoring in communication disorders. “It’s just something fun that gets everyone out there.”

In past years the Nearly Naked Mile has raised over thousands of articles of clothing for the Amherst Survival Center. Elena Montagne, the director for alumni communications at the SAA, said that every article donated would be necessary.

“They’re forecasting a pretty cold winter this year,” said Montagne. “So these donations are really going to be needed.”

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster

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