Although he’s more well known in the racing industry for his day job as an Acura factory driver and driving coach, and his new winter side project as co-creator of the Dinner with Racers podcast, it’s philanthropy that may drive Ryan Eversley most.
Eversley’s February sees him and a number of his other close friends – they call themselves “Team ATL” – strip down to underwear for a good cause: participating in the annual Cupid’s Undie Run, which takes place on Saturday. They run for Team Cure NF with Jack Atlanta.
The nationwide event occurs in several cities and Eversley has worked for the last few years to raise thousands to help cure neurofibromatosis (NF), which is a disease that currently affects 1 in 3000 people and can cause Tumors to grow on any nerve ending in the body.
It actually affects Eversley in a personal way. “I drove the Children’s Tumor Foundation car at Daytona a few years back and realized how bad NF is and was shocked I’d never heard of it,” he said. “I had spinal meningitis as a kid and had to spend a lot of time at Scottish Rite so I get how terrible this is and I always wanted to do something with my racing efforts to help children in need. I met The Burkes and their son Jack at the race track and immediately felt a close bond with them and while I run for ‘Cure NF with Jack’ on paper, I’m raising money for everyone affected by NF.”
This year, Eversley’s raised more than $25,000 for awareness and funding of the disease, which is third highest raised nationwide for this event and first in Atlanta. Over the last four years, Eversley has raised more than $80,000 total.
Even more impressive about the amount raised is that it’s all come from Eversley’s dedicated social media following, which he’s built up over the last few years across several platforms.
“Last year I think it was around $23,000, and now it’s over $25,000, which is unbelievable,” Eversley said. “The one thing I love about Cupid’s Undie Run is that it goes specifically to research and the charity. It’s not going to a person’s salary, a board of directors or marketing agencies – it’s 100 percent going to fund research, medical trials and things like that.”
“It’s such a good feeling. And the craziest thing is that it’s just from social media and my followers and friends and racing family Every now and then I’ll get a donation from a corporation or a company but it’s primarily because of racing.”
Eversley’s racing season in Pirelli World Challenge ended in October at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, before he and his podcast colleague Sean Heckman set sail on a 12,000-mile, cross-country odyssey (in a Honda Odyssey, riding on Continental Tires) for the second season of the podcast series.
November provided the first real chance for Eversley to get back to promoting his fundraising efforts. Do it too early in the year, he said, and things get lost in the shuffle. That provides roughly a three-month buildup to create awareness and to perform the fundraising.
Even though Eversley posts daily across the multiple platforms, the nature of social media is such that you miss posts unless you’re tracking everything. That’s in large part why Eversley posts as much as he does.
“Just like in PR you don’t want to send out two releases at the same time to muddle the messages, which is why I think I started mid-November, and then pushed harder around the holidays,” Eversley explained. “I’m it sure it might get annoying for some on social media because of different platforms but the results speak for themselves.”
“It never ceases to amaze me when you’ll see someone donate with like a week to go, and they say, ‘I just didn’t see it!’ That’s how it works. But then you get a $500 donation and hear, ‘I would have done it earlier, but didn’t see it and it keeps me posting until I hit my goal.”
Of course, we’ve hit on the fundraising part. But the underwear part provides the lighter and more humorous angle to this fundraising story.
There’s several questions you have to ask yourself upon doing this. Namely, how are you going to stay warm, and what do you for storage? Eversley attempted to answer both.
“The first year we did this, it was like 26 degrees and windy all day!” Eversley laughed. “We all showed up at the old location and had to park far away. And the wind was brutal..”
“But the second year wasn’t that bad. It is a social event and then when you start to go, you get so excited because you know it’s coming, and the adrenaline takes over.
“To be honest, it’s not even the cold thing that gets you. It’s, ‘Hey, I’m standing here in my underwear in front of all these strangers. So what am I gonna open my laptop and be tagged in tomorrow?’”
As for the storage question – cellphone, wallet, and so forth – Eversley had a more simple answer.
“Trial and error!” he said. “In the past we’d say, ‘Let’s put everything in one bag’… but if there’s a bunch of bags, and someone takes the wrong bag everyone’s screwed, it’s happened! Then we got the wristbands with a pocket in it – this is good for credit cards and IDs. You’re holding your phone most of the time but that’s fine because everyone’s taking pictures anyways”
Eversley’s fellow Acura teammate Andy Lally, who competes in one of Michael Shank Racing’s NSX GT3s in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, has himself been proactive in fundraising as well with more than $13,000 raised.
The “Team ATL” crew also includes fellow drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Katherine Legge, among others, who generally make the event one of the more fun social gatherings of the year.
In Lally’s case, he was running neck-and-neck with Fran Cone to be second to Eversley for most fundraising in Atlanta. Cone is actually one of the most important figures in the Cupid’s Undie Run, for her family involvement in the event’s creation.
“This whole thing is a very important part of my year,” Eversley explained. “The Cupid’s Undie Run was founded by a few people including Chad Leathers. Chad’s brother Drew passed away with complications of NF in 2015.
“We’re not just doing this to say, ‘Hey, let’s do this.’ We’re doing this because there is a serious connection I feel with it. Drew Leathers was my friend. So to have my racing friends and followers join and donate to it, is very gratifying.”
“Fran Cone is Drew Leathers’ mom. Fran raised the second highest amount of money behind me last year. The highest fundraiser gets a ‘golden pair of underwear’ – the gold medal of this if you will – and I pulled her up to give her the medal because I wanted her to know what Drew meant to me.”
“It’s amazing to do and help support, and it’s super serious and empowering.”
Once Eversley gets his proper core temperature back after the run this weekend, he’ll be just under a month out from the start of the new Pirelli World Challenge season in St. Petersburg, March 10-12.