Dash for doughnuts: CMU fraternity hosts ALS fundraiser

Dash for doughnuts: CMU fraternity hosts ALS fundraiser

For those who can stomach it, try running two miles after eating six sweet, glazed, iced, cream-filled and jelly doughnuts.

The Donut Dash 2014 is a race on Oct. 5 sponsored by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Carnegie Mellon University. Participants, including Pitt students, will run a mile-long route along Forbes Avenue twice. The event, which will raise money for the Pittsburgh-based ALS foundation LiveLikeLou.org, begins at the parking lot at the intersection of Morewood and Forbes avenues. Those in the competitive division have to run the two miles, stopping between the miles at the race’s starting point where they will eat the doughnuts.

“There’s a casual division of the race where you don’t have to eat the doughnuts, you can just run the two miles,” said Peter Pacent, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the dash’s event manager. “In the competitive division, though, you get disqualified if you don’t eat all six before starting the second mile.”

Sigma Alpha Epsilon expects roughly 100 people to participate in the competitive divison. The fraternity has raised more than $50,000 so far from registration money — approximately double last year’s number, Pacent said. 

The race is open to the public, but contestants must pay a registration fee, with student discounts in both the casual and competitive individual categories, as well as student teams of two to six members per team. The student-discounted prices are $15 for individuals or $13 per team member.

“We’re expecting a total of about 700 participants this year,” Pacent said.

When Donut Dash began in 2008, the fundraising goal was $2,000 for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh — more like a doughnut hole than a full-sized fry cake. This year, Sigma Alpha Epsilon redirected its philanthropy because of a more personal reason.

Robert Dax, a CMU graduate and recipient of CMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award, was diagnosed with ALS last spring. The choice of charity is a tribute to Dax, the fraternity’s alumni adviser.

Pacent said they researched the ALS Association, the organization behind this summer’s popular Ice Bucket Challenge, and LiveLikeLou.org. Neil and Suzanne Alexander founded LiveLikeLou.org in 2011 after Neil was diagnosed with ALS. Pacent met with the couple in the months leading to the race to discuss the race’s tie to their fund.

“When you think about someone with a debilitating disease, you expect them to be broken down, but Neil isn’t like that,” Pacent said. “He has a really positive attitude about life, this event, the entire Pittsburgh community. It comes from a very pure place in his heart.”

People’s Natural Gas donated $15,000 for the event managers to spend on advertising, such as large banners on Port Authority buses. The Pittsburgh Foundation provided practical help: closing Forbes Avenue for the race, consulting pointers and helping with public relations.

Other local and national companies also donated prizes: a Microsoft tablet for first place and doughnut-shaped medals for three individual competitors and the top team. There will also be a raffle, whose winners will receive bags of signed Pittsburgh Pirates merchandise.

Although the ratio of Pitt to CMU participants is usually low, Pacent said there are a handful of runners from Pitt every year.

Eric Kochinsky will be at the starting line on Sunday.

“There’s a run called the Krispy Kreme Challenge in North Carolina that I’ve been wanting to do for years,” Kochinsky, a senior majoring in finance and accounting, said. “When I found there was a similar event in Pittsburgh, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Kochinsky said this is the first time he’ll be running the Donut Dash, but he’s confident in his abilities to both eat and run. 

“In high school, when I ran cross country, we would sneak off to Rita’s [Italian Ice] during practice, so I have some experience eating mid-run,” he said. 

Every race needs spectators, who sometimes need something more to do than just cheer and hold signs. Jake Correa, philanthropy chair of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said there will be room to watch the doughnut feeding frenzy at the Morewood Avenue parking lot. Food trucks selling refreshments from Mac & Gold, a macaroni and cheese to-go truck, and Franktuary, a hot dog and sausage restaurant, will also be stationed in the area.

Spectators can also buy doughnuts in the spirit of the race — and pay with money instead of sweat. 

Those who don’t enjoy their cardio with a heaping side of carbohydrates are probably wondering, how many runners have thrown up their doughnuts at the end of the race?

“That’s probably our No. 1 most-asked question,” Correa said. “But we haven’t had anyone throw up. [But] some people feel really terrible when they finish.”

“But no one has had doughnut-induced vomiting,” Pacent said.