These Were the Droids You Were Looking For: CNSC Contributes to CHIditarod’s Biggest Year Ever

If you’ve never heard of CHIditarod before, think urban races, pub crawls, costume contests, talent shows and creative chaos, all in the name of fighting hunger in Chicago. Teams of five racers trick out shopping carts with themes including Doctor Who, Back to the Future, Pac-Man, even a Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea theme, complete with a giant bubble-blowing squid, and pull the carts over a course of several miles, stopping at participating bars for drinks and games. Each team is required to bring a minimum of 60lbs of food to donate to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and both racers and volunteers raise money for the event, which goes to the CHIditarod Foundation and helps fund grants awarded to local organizations addressing hunger and food shortage issues in the Chicago area.

photo credit Michelle Benedicta

]1 photo credit Michelle Benedicta

For nine years, the self-proclaimed “probably the World’s Largest Mobile Food Drive” has brought together hundreds of racers and volunteers to raise over 80,000 lbs of food for the Greater Chicago Food Depository and tens of thousands of dollars for charity. This was the first year CNSC was honored to participate in the race – a team of 19 volunteers from Chicago’s nerd community ran the event’s race checkpoint at Emporium Arcade Bar, itself a first-time checkpoint location. The CNSC Checkpoint was themed “Welcome to Echo Station Chi-Hoth” – “Wanted” posters for Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, “These are the droids you’re looking for” and “Let the Wookie Win” reminders were papered all over the bar. Many of the checkpoint team members were in Star Wars cosplay. Racers were invited to play Spin-the-Wheel Star Wars trivia and offered disposable hand-warmers as give-aways while all three films from the original trilogy played on the bar’s big screen.

Thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of our nerdy brethren, CNSC was able to contribute to CHIditarod’s most successful year yet. The final stats were released from the event today:

CHIditarod IX 29,007 Meals for the Hungry 21,788 Pounds of Food Collected $40,255 Raised to Fight Hunger in Chicago

On March 1, 2014, twelve hundred women, men, gladiators, spies, flight attendants, greasers, highlanders, bananas, knights, and enthusiastic mushers gathered on a brisk 17 degree morning to create the annual spectacular costumed charity shopping cart race and epic mobile food drive — CHIditarod IX. The mercury never rose above freezing, yet that failed to dissuade nearly 400 volunteers and 150 teams of 5 heavily-costumed humans from raising food and funds to fight hunger in Chicago while racing tricked-out shopping carts through 5 themed checkpoint establishments on the frozen streets of Chicago. This is CHIditarod.

The CNSC Checkpoint Team elected to participate in fundraising for the event and set a goal of $500. Not only did CNSC surpass that goal, raising a total of $670, the nerds raised the second-highest amount of funds among the checkpoint fundraising teams. Total food collected from the GCFD bin provided at Emporium was 61lbs. Additionally, each participating checkpoint donates a portion of the race day’s profits to the Foundation – Emporium’s contribution was $400.

A total breakdown of the race’s fundraising, food drive and prize winner stats can be found on CHIditarod’s main site. It’s an impressive array and the event even got a write up on the Chicago Sun Times blog, including Tweets from some of the CNSC checkpoint team members. Here are some of our favorite photos:

Spy vs Spy. photo credit opacity (

]2 Spy vs Spy. photo credit opacity


]3 DC villains and reindeer. photo credit opacity


]4 Game of Thrones racers. photo credit opacity

CNSC would like to thank our nerdtastic volunteers for dragging themselves out EARLY on another Hoth-like day (snow included) to help make this such an amazing year for CHIditarod. Several of CNSC’s team had duties that required them to spend some time outdoors, but luckily no one had to crawl inside a tauntaun for warmth (tauntauns weren’t allowed inside the bar anyway, living or dead).

Sad tauntaun is sad.

]5 Sad tauntaun is sad. photo credit opacity

The CNSC CHIditarod IX Checkpoint Team was: Michelle Benedicta, Holly Blessen (co-lead), Michael Brugioni, Danette Chavez, Raquel Chavez, Jennifer Cross, Sondra de Jong, Gordon Dymowski (CNSC Board), Mark Graunke, Mary Ann Grossman, David Hansen, Renee Ismail, Jesse Lex, Marc Nobele, Anne Petersen (CNSC Board), Michi Trota (CNSC Board, co-lead), Beth Voigt, Jorie Von Ohlen and Wendy Zdrodowski.

CNSC Chiditarod Checkpoint Team at Emporium Arcade Bar. photo credit Michelle Benedicta

]6 CNSC Chiditarod Checkpoint Team at Emporium Arcade Bar. photo credit Michelle Benedicta

CNSC also thanks Emporium Arcade Bar for being welcoming and supportive hosts – the nerds couldn’t have asked for a better checkpoint location for our first time being part of CHIditarod.

Last but not least, thank you to all the nerds who came out to Emporium to support CNSC and CHIditarod’s efforts to fight hunger issues in the city by donating food, contributing to our fundraiser and buying drinks at the bar (yes, that counts, since that $400 from Emporium was funded by all those drinks bought on race day).

CNSC will definitely be taking part in CHIditarod next year, for the big ten year anniversary, and the CNSC team has already started brainstorming how to make our checkpoint theme bigger, better and even more nerdy! So mark your calendars for Saturday, March 7, 2015 – whether you’d like to join the CNSC checkpoint team or put together your own team of racers, we hope you’ll join us at CHIditarod X!

3 Responses to These Were the Droids You Were Looking For: CNSC Contributes to CHIditarod’s Biggest Year Ever

  1. [...] proud to say that CNSC's first year of CHIditarod was a smashing success. I wrote CNSC's coverage of the event so I won't rehash things too much. However, the final overall tally of food and funds [...]

  2. Devin says:

    CNSC was a welcomed and awesome addition to Chiditarod this year. I loved the immersive environment, your sense of humor, and playful spirit. Y’all are awesome.

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