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Sleepwear run in Druid Hill benefits Maryland's Fuel Fund

Bobby Stewart takes part in the Run in Pajamas at Druid Hill Park.
Bobby Stewart takes part in the Run in Pajamas at Druid Hill Park. (Jacques Kelly / Baltimore Sun)

When the organizers of a 5K pajamas-only charity race arrived in Druid Hill Park, they never dreamed that downed tree limbs would be blocking the running path and brisk winds would be no match for their flannel running garb.

“Somehow, by the time the race started, a contractor arrived with a saw and the winds let up a little,” said Kevin Cheung, the Ellicott City man who conceived the Run in Pajamas with his wife, Crystal.

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Cheung, 29, a private energy consultant who works with nonprofits and other clients, said the aim was to raise funds and awareness for the Fuel Fund of Maryland. They picked a cold time of the year to make a point for this first-time event that was headquartered in a park picnic pavilion.

“My wife and I brainstormed about a serious subject. But we also wanted something fun. We thought about pajamas, not yoga pants,” he said as he sat on a picnic bench.

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He wore a one-piece dinosaur suit.

“I have to know a lot of people in the energy-efficiency community,” he said. “The race was a way to bring them together and create awareness of how the fuel fund supports families with children.”

Other competitors arrived as Batman and other cartoon characters. Many raced in multiple layers; several shed fleecy tops at the halfway point when the temperatures — and the wind — finally moderated.

The race’s organizers hoped for 80 runners. About 25 showed up and ran. Another handful walked the course. The event’s organizers estimated they would be giving the fuel fund $1,000.

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Bobby Stewart, a 20-year-old University of Delaware student from Oceanside, N.Y., heard about the race and drove down overnight. Because bridges were closed, it took him nine hours.

“I view running as a mindful activity,” said Stewart, who is majoring in philosophy and international studies. “It’s a way to compare yourself to other people.”

By the end of the day, the organizers’ supply of bottled water remained little used. The hot coffee, however, was gone. Throughout the afternoon the runners switched to dancing and listening to music in the picnic pavilion.

Many of the runners said they had never been to Druid Hill Park.

Davis Pfund, a University of Delaware student from Towson majoring in entrepreneurship and technology innovation, represented Zerodraft Maryland, an energy consulting business, and Metta Creative, an event organizer.

"We want to party and feel good about it,” Pfund said. He defined his goal as “”inspiring … millennials to act and live more sustainably through social-action nightlife.”

“We want to find ways for millennials to have fun without binge drinking,” he said. “An event like this is perfect.”

Danielle Phelps, who works at the Maryland Fuel Fund, said she was pleased her charity had been adopted by the young runners.

“It’s exhilarating and awesome,” she said.

“People do not realize that the inability to pay a fuel bill causes homelessness in renters,” she said. “It’s really staggering. and something that people who pay their fuel bills don’t think about. Being thrown out of a rental property breaks up families and scatters children. We want to keep families together.”

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