Written by: Alicia Koch, Program Coordinator, Employee & Community Engagement
This past weekend, 535 Chicagoans ran through the streets of the Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village neighborhoods in costumes pushing shopping carts full of canned food for the 11th annual CHIditarod. Founded and led by Groupon Senior Software Engineer, Devin Breen, the CHIditarod is a Chicago staple: part charity food drive, part beauty pageant, part bar crawl, all costumed urban shopping cart race supporting the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s mission to end hunger.
This year’s event raised more than 15,000 pounds of food (which translates to 13,000 meals) for the Greater Chicago Food Depository and more than $32,000 to support local nonprofits working to alleviate hunger in the Chicagoland area via an annual grant program offered by the CHIditarod Foundation – the 501(c)(3) Devin started in 2012.
The idea for the CHIditarod was born after Devin’s return back from his first Burning Man in 2005. He came back inspired with creativity and empowered to create participatory change in his hometown of Chicago. After hearing about San Francisco and New York’s “urban iditarods,” Devin knew this event could be something big for the Chicago community – and if there was a charity component added on top of the festivities, it could be even bigger.
When catching up with this inspiring Grouponer after this year’s event, he mentioned his favorite part would be “The Yard” where participants line up to start the race. “When you have all of the teams hanging out together, there is this concentrated ability to see the creativity and sense of community in the CHIditarod,” said Devin.
As the momentum around the CHIditarod continues to grow year over year, Devin’s work has been recognized by the Burning Man community leadership, and he will be presenting a keynote at Burning Man’s Global Leadership Conference in San Francisco next month on his work with CHIditarod. At the conference, Devin will be announcing the event’s exciting expansion plan, Rod in a Box. The CHIditarod Team has been working over the last year to open source all of their materials and software (http://github.com/chiditarod) to allow cities to replicate the event, tailor it to the unique culture of their local community, and fight hunger in one of the most unique ways that I’ve ever seen!