2018 Grant Recipients

Advocates for Urban Agriculture – $5,000 – The support from CHIditarod will go directly to growing AUA’s impact on populations that struggle with healthy food access. The impact is two-fold: a larger production of healthy food for the community and economic development of programs that get that food into the hands of Chicagoans. AUA’s training initiative will ultimately help farmers access the tools they need to more successfully do what they do best – grow food that will increase their prosperity and that of their communities.

Bronzeville Neighborhood Farm – $1,000 – Bronzeville Neighborhood Farm is a community urban agriculture site managed by the Bronzeville Alliance and sponsored by NeighborSpace. One year ago, the Bronzeville Urban Site was an empty lot. Today, Bronzeville Alliance has facilitated community construction of garden beds and a hoop house, paving the way for successful crop production in 2018.  This farm is a community anchor, securing long-term residents in the neighborhood through home-grown social connection. This community farm’s mission is to bring people from different income levels and backgrounds together through shared neighborhood effort.

Dignity Diner – $5,000 – Dignity Diner is a local ministry that offers a free three course meal to community members every Tuesday evening. Holy Covenant United Methodist Church—alongside volunteers from the community—have been serving the hungry and the homeless in the Lincoln Park/Lakeview neighborhood since 1992. Over the last 27 years, more than 60,000 meals have been served at Dignity Diner. The cost of food service at Dignity Diner averages $300 a week, including food, supplies, and staff— the grant from CHIditarod would provide more than 16 weeks of high quality meals to local guests.

Figeroa Wu Foundation – $5,000 – The Figueroa Wu Foundation supports groups like the UI Health Pilsen Food Pantry, which opened in January 2008 and serves vulnerable Chicagoans by reducing immediate food insecurity. In as few as nine months, Figueroa Wu has served thousands of people. UI Health Pilsen Food Pantry will use their grant to train more volunteers, increase their food storage capacity, and increase the number of people served.

Gardeneers – $4,000 – Gardeneers is making an impact across Chicago Public Schools. This grant will increase the amount of produce grown for farm stands by expanding the production area of 25 school gardens. Half of the money will be used to physically expand these gardens, covering lumber, soil, mulch, seeds and seedlings. The other part will be used to purchase materials needed for farm stands, such as tables, chairs, shade tents, display baskets, informational signage, recipe cards, and flyers for community recruitment.

Holsten Human Capital Development

Holsten Human Capital Development – $5,000 – Holsten Human Capital Development currently serves 3,500 households in 15 Chicagoland communities in addition to Riverdale and Joliet. This grant is supporting their Riverwalk Heal food pantry, housed in a space recently vacated by the Loving Word Ministries Food Bank in the Riverwalk Homes public housing complex in Joliet. Holsten Human Capital Development stocks the shelves for distribution for the pantry’s Thursday food distribution and emergency food requests.

New Eclipse Community Alliance – $3,000 – New Eclipse Community Alliance offers food assistance through a client model, allowing people seeking services to choose for themselves what products they receive. This makes stocking easier for the pantry, affords the people served dignity and control, limits food waste, and allows the program to tailor the help received to fit each unique situation.  This funding opportunity will help sustain the food pantry,  which serves 54 households and 174 individual clients monthly.

Peterson Garden Project – $2,000 – Since Peterson Garden Project began with a single Pop-Up Victory Garden in 2010, growing food specifically for neighbors in need has been a priority of their Grow2Give program. Over the past nine years, they have trained volunteer gardeners and worked closely with local nutrition partners to grow fresh food just for their clients – our neighbors. Each year, our Grow2Give volunteer gardeners grow, harvest, wash, package, and deliver an average of 2,500 pounds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs for our neighborhood partners: Howard Area Community Center in Rogers Park, Inspiration Café in Uptown, Lincoln Square Friendship Center and First Slice Pie Café in Albany Park, North Part Friendship Center in North Park, and Care for Real in Edgewater. That’s 10,000 servings of fresh food for people in our communities.

2017 Grant Awardees

CHIditarod XII was a great success thanks to everyone involved. The CHIditarod Foundation raised more than 25,000 pounds of food for those in need, in a heroic effort to fight hunger. Thanks to generous donors and competitive teams, we were able to meet new fundraising goals to help like-minded organizations trying to better Chicago. This year we are able to again give out $25,000 in funds Chicago-area 501(c)(3) organizations that are directly fighting hunger, making an impact on local food sustainability, and/or empowering individuals and communities through food education. We were truly blown away by the inventive ways organizations are making a change in the communities around them.  There were so many great applications it was hard to choose who to join on their fight against hunger.

The CHIditarod Foundation chose eight organizations doing amazing work.

We are thrilled to introduce the 2017 winning organizations!

Advocates for Urban Agriculture – The AUA, whose membership totals more than 2,000 growers throughout Chicago, engages with individual and community growers in some of the city’s most high-risk neighborhoods. Their Crop Mobs program, with the support of the CHIditarod Foundation, expects to reach a minimum of 500 low-income existing and potential growers during the coming year.

Angelic Organics Learning Center – Angelic Organics Learning Center builds sustainable local food and farm systems through experiential education and training programs in partnership with rural and urban people. They will be using their grant money for the ‘The Eat to Live Project,”  addressing critical food system issues in the neighborhood around growing sites. The Incubator Farm in this project will address the scarcity of locations for new urban farmers to launch businesses on Chicago’s south side, low-income areas.

Common Pantry – Common Pantry was established in 1967 and is Chicago’s oldest continuously run food pantry providing emergency food on Chicago’s North Side while addressing the root causes of food insecurity and poverty. Their grant funds will help support the expansion of their food distribution program for the 2018. As of July 1, 2017 Common Pantry added a distribution day each week and expanded their territory to serve more needy households, as two food pantries in the area recently closed.

Peterson Garden Project – Peterson Garden Project’s mission is to teach everyone how to grow and cook their own food. During the Spring and Summer of 2018, their Feast of Resistance program will provide the opportunity to learn about and support refugee issues on a local level working with Camp GirlForward campers to share stories from their countries as they are taught to grow food and cook together.

Plant Chicago – Plant Chicago seeks to change the way cities develop the critical infrastructure—waste, water, energy, and food access—that will support an increasingly urbanized population. Funding from the CHIditarod Foundation will help expand cooking and nutrition education offerings, give incentives to low-income families to make shopping at their farmer’s market more affordable, and integrate community needs and culturally appropriate offerings into our current farmers market and cooking education programming.

Purple Asparagus – Purple Asparagus’ mission is to educate children, families and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Funding from CHIditarod, will increase Purple Asparagus’ reach and further its mission, expanding programming into the summer camp setting. They aim to ​develop​ ​and​ ​run,​ ​on​ ​a​ ​pilot​ ​basis,​ ​a​ ​summer​ ​camp​ ​program,​ D​elicious Nutritious​ ​Summer​ ​Adventures​.

South Merrill Community Gardens – The South Merrill Community Garden memorializes Troy Law, a former student of O’Keefe Elementary School, who died as a result of domestic violence. The garden serves as a counterweight and positive influence in a neighborhood that has been impacted by gun, gang and drug-related violence. They will using funding for their Young Growers Program, where students from O’Keefe will become seed to table gardeners. They will learn seed starting and gardening, planting garden management and maintenance, and participate in a harvest to table cooking class.

Urban Muslim Minority Alliance (UMMA) Center – The UMMA project aims bring more fresh produce, nutritional education, and expanded access to locally sourced food to a community surrounded by food deserts. Funding will be used to increase the quality of our food pantry supplies, aiming to include fresh vegetables, meat, and dairy, instead of the usual non-perishables and canned goods. UMMA will also provide more classes on healthy cooking and eating, with local community garden programs training students in how to identify healthy food while shopping, grow produce, and cook healthily.

This year we also hosted an Open Grant Night, where organizations could come out, spread their message and programs and receive votes for an additional grant.

CHIditarod’s grants to Chicago community-based organizations fighting hunger would not be possible without our generous donors, volunteers, and partners. We are grateful for their continued support.

The CHIditarod Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to solving the root causes of hunger through creative events and direct action. Our flagship event — The CHIditarod — brings together 1,000 people annually and has funded $120,000 in small grants for local anti-hunger initiatives since its inception. The CHIditarod takes place annually on the first Saturday in March. On March 4, 2017, CHIditarod marked twelve years of philanthropy, with 565 costumed racers chasing their dreams of CHIditarod glory and making a difference in the fight against hunger. Since its humble beginnings in 2006, CHIditarod has raised more than 172,000 pounds of food and $228,000 in the fight to end hunger in the greater Chicago area.

For more information about CHIditarod and the CHIditarod Foundation, follow us onFacebook, Google+, and Twitter.

Grant Report:: Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance


The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance (GPCA), graciously thanked the CHIditarod Foundation for its support of their efforts to address the need for fresh produce in our local neighborhoods of East and West Garfield Park, which are known food deserts within the City of Chicago. The $2,500 grant awarded to GPCA by the CHIditarod Foundation was instrumental to their two main work objectives: 1) growing and donating produce to immediately address the need for access to healthy foods, and 2) educating, training and supporting local gardeners to grow fresh vegetables to feed their community over the long term.

Working in partnership with the Garfield Park Garden Network and the Chicago Community Garden Association, GPCA was able to engage the community in two fundamental ways during the past nine months. First, they provided educational opportunities so that community gardeners could develop and strengthen their skills for sustainable practices. Second, they provided the material resources needed to ensure community gardeners an optimal start to the 2017 growing season. The Garfield Park Garden Network includes 6-9 operational gardens, which are cared for by 55 community gardeners and an additional 30 youth interns during the summer months.

These community gardeners have taken the lead in addressing the need for fresh, healthy foods in their community by working to grow nutritious vegetables for their families and neighbors. There are numerous variables to the successful planting and growing of a vegetable garden – particularly for novice gardeners. GPCA has supported our local community gardeners by teaching them techniques (such as soil health and proper plant spacing) that increase plant resiliency and will improve the outcomes of their growing season. The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance explains their program further: 

“We also utilized the GPCA greenhouse – a warm, sheltered environment – to grow seedlings for the community over the winter months. GPCA’s Greenhouse Coordinator planned and started the seedlings and scheduled the volunteer shifts to care for the seedlings beginning in mid-February. This year, we have already provided more than 1,000 seedlings to the Garfield Park Garden Network and other gardens who reached out to us with a need for starter plants. We expect to provide at least another 500 warm season seedlings to these gardens in mid-May. We are also providing seed potatoes and seed starts for onions and sweet potatoes that are better started in specialized production. Additionally, all of the seedlings grown here at the Garfield Park Conservatory are nurtured to provide produce for the community. We will harvest produce for the Neighborhood Market Days (2nd Saturdays and following Thursdays, June-October) as well as mid-month for the local food pantries. Last summer, GPCA was able to donate more than 1,000 pounds of produce to the community. With an earlier start to this season, we hope to increase the amount of produce we can contribute over the next five months. GPCA will be tracking that number throughout the growing season and will update the CHIditarod Foundation at the close of this season’s distribution. ”

Following are other ways in which GPCA was able to impact the community with these grant funds:

• Through a ‘How to Plan Your Vegetable Garden’ workshop at the Chicago Community Garden Association’s March conference and a second session for Garfield Park Garden Network gardeners, we demonstrated how to successfully plan your garden to 46 gardeners. Plant spacing and soil health were prioritized in these workshops to increase health and production of the plants.

• In addition to the workshop, we hosted an important meeting of the Bionutrient Food Association, a group that promotes healthy soil and provides education about the challenges of growing in urban environments specifically.

• The Conservatory hosted the Urban Agroecology Class series. These classes were promoted to the community and attendees were encouraged to share what they’ve learned with their respective gardens and neighbors.

• Setting up a volunteer scheduling system for the Fulton Street Greenhouse to maintain seedlings for distribution among Garfield Park Gardens.

• Tool and material replenishment for 2017 market season. This includes biodegradable produce bags, rubber bands for bunching produce for sale, scale for weighing produce, ice packs for

limiting the wilting of greens, and market signage.

• Soil testing and amendments for community gardens (to be purchased in May). This includes straw mulch for garden beds to increase soil health.

Next Steps:

By providing seedlings and educational training, we hope community gardeners can continue to build on their skills and knowledge and share their expertise with the newer gardeners in the group. Through monthly meetings, GPCA will continue to share ideas and tips with community gardeners, and we hope to schedule a garden tour to show off what is happening in each of these gardens with the broader community. This year, we will focus on involving the community gardeners in seed starting – primarily at the Fulton Street Greenhouse, which has partial heat. We will continue to develop and evaluate the success of this growing operation over the summer so that it can be fully set up for the next growing season.


Grant Report:: Experimental Station


Experimental Station is grateful to CHIditarod Foundation for the opportunity to carry out our Crockpot Project. All who participated deemed it a lot of fun and a great success!

The project goal was to provide a series of three crockpot cooking lessons to residents of the low-income Jackson Park Terrace (JPT) apartment complex. The crockpot was presented as a solution to the problem of lack of time at the end of the day to prepare a healthy meal. Additionally, the crockpot provides a solution for those who may lack cooking utensils or a functioning stove on which to prepare hot and healthy meals. Those participants (up to 25) who completed the three-class series would receive their own crockpot, a knife and two cutting boards (one for fruits and vegetables and one for meats).

Two Experimental Station staff members were central to the project: our 61 st Street Farmers Market Manager, who coordinated the project, and our Finance Administrator (an avid crockpot user), who was our Chef Instructor, providing the crockpot class instruction. Coordinating with the JPT apartments management staff, the 61 st Street Farmers Market Manager secured the JPT community kitchen to hold the cooking classes, which were scheduled for Wednesday, January 25, February 1 and February 8. Our Market Manager purchased 25 crockpots, 25 knives and 51 cutting boards for the project. With outreach assistance from JPT management, 22 very enthusiastic participants signed up for the classes, where they learned how to prepare 7 different recipes.

The January 25 class taught participants how to prepare Beef Stew and White Bean Kale Soup. On February 1, they made Lentil Sloppy Joes and Vegetarian Enchiladas. On February 8, dessert was on the menu, with participants learning to use their crockpot to bake Apple Sharlotka and a Lemon Blueberry Cake. They also learned to prepare Overnight Oatmeal.

Following the February 8 class, 20 excited and very lively participants received their crockpot, knife and cutting boards. Class members also received a small recipe book, created by the Market Manager and Chef Instructor containing all of the recipes taught in the class. As two of the class members had not been able to attend all three classes, the Market Manager and instructor held a make-up class to ensure that everyone received a crockpot.

In late-March, the Market Manager and Chef Instructor conducted a phone inquiry of all participants, to learn whether they continued to use their crockpots. We were delighted and encouraged by their very positive responses:

  • One participant had made a whole meal for her neighbors just with her crockpot.
  • One participant gave her old crockpot to her daughter and kept the new one so that they can ‘crockpot’ together.
  • One participant was excited to have cooked an entire roast in her crockpot.
  • A number of participants were using recipes from the class recipe book.
  • One woman came to the farmers market to purchase ingredients for her crockpot.
  • Several participants asked about growing their own vegetables in the resident garden plots, maintained by Experimental Station. We will work with them this summer to help them do so!
  • All participants enjoyed the experience and asked to continue the relationship with Experimental Station around their crockpots!

As a result of the success of the Crockpot Project, Experimental Station will be developing additional cooking classes—including crockpot cooking—for the Jackson Park Terrace residents. Again, we are grateful to CHIditarod Foundation for providing the opportunity to undertake this pilot project.

Grant Reports: NeighborSpace Hermitage Street Community Garden

Hermitage Street Community Garden, Englewood, is one of the many places NeighborSpace has helped to create to encourage healthy eating and relieving food scarcity in Chicago. The CHIditarod grant of $5,000 has supported improvements at Hermitage Street Community Garden and increased in turn the food donations made available to families in the Englewood community. Most of these donations were used by senior residents at Bethel Terrace Senior Residence at 900 West 63rd Parkway. They expanded their garden beds from 23, to now having 34 to expand the garden’s vegetable growing output. NeighborSpace estimates that 120 additional families were helped the last growing season.

Their $5,00 grant also paid for building materials and labor construction costs associated with the raised beds. To ensure healthful vegetables are grown in the new beds, we purchased landscape barrier cloth (to block out any existing toxins in the Chicago topsoil) and organic soil from lake street supply. They have added additional rain barrels and a compost system to be more self-reliant and better serve its own fertilization needs and once again demonstrate environmental best practices for the community.

NeighborSpace, the non-profit that protects Hermitage Street and 108 other Chicago community gardens on behalf of community members, provides fiscal agency to our sites to make funding like the CHIditarod grant possible. Thank you for your support of increased healthy food access in Englewood.

How to Win, Place, or Show at Chiditarod 

Experienced Chiditarod Master Judges and members of the COREganizer Corps provide some tips for those hoping to win big on race day. 
Okay, what’s the magic formula for winning big? 
There isn’t one way to do it right, but there are lots of things that can go wrong, so let’s start with what *not* to do, shall we?
1. Don’t forget the mission of the race. Have fun and do good for those in need. Bad behavior doesn’t belong here.
2. Don’t be offensive. When it comes to costumes and makeup there is a point where clever ends and questionable begins. General rule of thumb: if you have to ask, don’t do it. If you still think it’s a good idea, double check the Core Philosophypage first.
3. Don’t be a Douchebag… You all know what a D-bag is, right?
4. …And don’t let your teammate be a Chucklehead. Every year there is a cart that is well done, with good costumes, fun bribes, great engagement, and ONE team member who ruins it for the rest. Watch your buddies; don’t let them drink too much and destroy your day and your chances for the title.
Got it. Now, what is the *to do* list if we wanna win? 
1. Build it and they will come. Carts take time to build well, so plan ahead and don’t take shortcuts. You want it to look as good at the end of the race as at the start, and you want good functionality.
2. Dress for success. Costumes matter – even when you are away from your cart, you want your story to come through.
3. Play the part. Successful carts have teams that look good and stay in character. (If your character is a jerk, mind your audience – always joke with the Judges; never piss them off)
4. Grease the palms. We have another post all about bribes – don’t forget yours! Big prize winners have a great, on-theme bribe and a great presentation of it. Don’t be afraid to explain it if needed.
5. Get in the game. Checkpoint teams put as much effort into their activities as you do your carts – participate! Judges *do* find out who played well with others…
6. Share the love. Chiditarod is a great day, with big fun and immense creativity, all in the name of a good cause. Have fun! Treat the Yard Crew, Bike Marshals, Cart Wranglers, Checkpoint Leads, CheckIn/CheckOut folks, Master Judges, and fellow racers with respect. We all talk, and you want us all equally impressed.
7. Tip your bartenders. This doesn’t actually count towards the win, but bar proceeds come back to Chiditarod and those folks are working hard to keep you lubricated.
That all makes sense, but what really puts a team over the top? 
Having a hook. Big prize winners usually have an element that brings their theme to life and engages Judges, Checkpoint Volunteers, and other teams alike. Memorable hooks have included: a used car lot that performed a live “commercial”; a Jeopardy cart that had flip-screen questions and answers; a Disney cart with movie karaoke with videos later posted to YouTube; a Pac Man cart with a working version of the game inside.
Wow. Sounds like some teams really know their stuff.
They do. And a few of the legends shared some hints via this blog post, which you might want to check out, too.
It looks like it’s a lot of work to win Best of Show or a big award
It is. It’s the whole package, from the moment you arrive at Check In until the moment you return to The Yard. All details are noted, big and small, and the more you are committed to your cart and the Mission, the greater your chances of winning. Does that mean that only huge carts and experienced racers can get a top prize? Nope. Like we said, it’s about the whole package – size doesn’t matter as much as spirit and enthusiasm from start to finish (yep, we said it).

CHIditarod XII Press Release Pre-Race

Media Advisory for CHIditarod XII, March 4, 2017


Contact: Stephanie Esposito, CHIditarod Press Liaison
Email: espo@chiditarod.org
Phone: 312.203.5529

MUSH! The CHIditarod, Chicago’s Shopping Cart Race for a Good Cause Celebrates 12th Year
Rollicking yearly event raises thousands of pounds of food and donations to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository, local organizations

Who: Spectators and well-wishers are invited to witness the start of the 12th CHIditarod, Chicago’s annual rambunctious, costumed shopping cart race, raising food and donations to combat hunger.

What: Part competition, part carnival, the CHIditarod is “probably  the world’s largest mobile food drive”. This year, more than 100 teams of five people in costumes will race decorated shopping carts for a good cause.

Whether they’re wearing giant Muppet heads, rolling a mobile diner, or paying tribute to lost legends or movie classics, each team will contribute at least 69 pounds of food to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD), with prizes awarded for largest food and monetary contributions and the most creative carts. This year, Kraft Heinz has partnered to donate 2,000 lbs of condiments to GCFD for the CHIditarod Foundation.

Now in its 12th year, the CHIditarod – a 100% volunteer driven organization – has raised more than 150,000 pounds of food for Chicago’s hungry and more than $145,000 for local nonprofits fighting hunger in the Chicago area.  Since the beginning of the CHIditarod Foundation’s grant program, $95,000 has been given out to like minded nonprofits who have new and creative ways of solving food scarcity.  

When: Saturday, March 4, 2017. Teams begin arriving at 9:45am. The pre-race festivities include performances by local eclectic marching band Environmental Encroachment. Race start is expected at 12:30pm.

Where: 1900 W. Hubbard, Chicago IL 60622 (northwest corner of Hubbard and Wolcott).

Visuals: 500+ excited participants in costume and decorated shopping carts, 200+ dedicated volunteers, trucks being loaded with thousands of pounds of donations for GCFD, raucous race start with 100+ teams pouring out of the gate and onto Chicago streets, pre-race music from 20+ member marching band.

For media interviews and Press RSVP, please contact:
Stephanie Esposito, espo@chiditarod.org, 312.203.5529
Starting line access is available through media check-in, we ask that all press RSVP prior to 3/01/2016.

About the CHIditarod Foundation

CHIditarod continues to expand its fundraising efforts to compliment the food drive that has been in operation since its first year (2006). In ten years, CHIditarod has donated more than 150,000 lbs of food to local food pantries, in addition to raising more than $145,000 for local non-profits. In 2012, race organizers formed the CHIditarod Foundation to award funds raised through CHIditarod’s events to local Chicago-based charities dedicated to eradicating hunger in their communities. CHIditarod is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit and is a 100% volunteer driven event and organization.
For more, visit: www.chiditarod.org

A Guide to Winning Awards

Mark Grutza, CHIdiot racer, and now a CHIditarod Foundation Board Member, remembers coming into Chiditarod as a new racer and realizing that if they wanted to win, they’d have to go big. Here’s how they did it…
Year one of the Chidiots was a wake-up call. We arrived at the starting line with a poorly constructed woman in labor sitting atop an unmodified shopping cart with legs in stirrups clearly constructed from various home depot hardware. Our feeling of confidence lasted 10 minutes… right up to the point Action Squad and The Derailers rolled by with scale replicas of stage coaches and steam engines artfully designed down to the smallest detail. We shook it off, had an amazing race and discovered Chiditarod would become an important part of our lives despite being just another team in a crowd of creativity.
Years two and three saw better cart construction but race days ended with us crying, “Foul! The same teams always win.” The truth though… our carts weren’t that good.. and we knew it. We didn’t deserve awards. It’s a hard pill to swallow after weeks of constructing a theme in a cold basement.
Ever since that first-year mind-f@#$ of watching stage coaches and steam engines roll past we’d known one thing… we wanted to be Action Squad. So! Somewhere in year three we started having long discussions about our careers as Chiditarod racers. It wasn’t long until those discussions developed into a plan…. A long-term, drawn-out plan. And you know what? It worked.
Step 1: Play to your strengths. We had a couple guys with basic electrical skills (and we weren’t seeing much that on race days) so we came up with themes that incorporated sound systems, flashing lights, car horns and playable Pacman games. People take notice when you’re running down the street dressed as the Beastie Boys with Sabotage blaring from your cop car only to be drowned out by the intermittent BEEP BEEP of an actual car horn wired to a button on your dashboard.
Step 2: Win the low-hanging fruit. In 2013 teams where raising lots of money but only donating a few hundred pounds of food. So we donated 1,223 lbs (barely beating out second place) and took home our first award. In 2014 we knew we had to go double or nothing, so we donated 3,293 lbs. In 2015… 8,576 lbs. A long way from 2012’s first place donation of 260 lbs. Beyond the obvious fact that this was helping feed the homeless, winning Food Donation for three straight years gave us recognition.
Step 3: Climb to the juicy top. We’re out of the food game. With Chiditarod recognition we’re now focused on raising money for the Chiditarod grant program and continually trying to out-do ourselves on cart design.
Step 4: Never forget Chiditarod = Oktoberfest + Halloween + Gay Pride Parade. You’re having fun with your friends on the most amazing day of the year. That’s a win in itself.

How to Race Like a Pro. Tips from a Team

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When it comes to CHIditarod, there are several teams that come back, time and time again. Action Squad became a dynasty team, being involved with the race from humble beginnings to going above and beyond for the race, and our cause. We asked three long running teams, what make CHIditarod work, how do you fund raise, and what about the build process? Dzyacky, one of the core members of Action Squad, Mark from the CHIdiots, and Amy from 3GS&T lend their expert advice on how to Rod the right way. and a dedicated racer has a few short and sweet tips for you on how to rock out CHIditarod. Dzyacky came up with a few bullet points, and our other pro racers expanded!

How to race like a pro:

Don’t be an asshole.

  • Seriously, don’t be THAT team.

Be liberal with your friendship.

  • You’ll have so much more fun if you work to make friends.

Durability wins the day, and keep the practical side in mind

  • Limit your use of cardboard if at all possible. The weather is so unpredictable, you may really regret the decision of cardboard if it rains.

Amy adds, I like to think that we learn from our mistakes. As a team that’s run the Chiditarod ten times, we’ve made a lot of mistakes. To our credit, they tend to be different mistakes every year. We’ve learned a few things about cart construction in the process. You’re going to have your cart with you all day. We use ours to store whatever outer layers we have to get rid of, bottles of Gatorade and water, snacks, judges’ bribes, and a case of beer. So construct your cart in such a way as to be able to access the things inside. We usually hinge the top of the cart. With cable ties!

It is a marathon, not a sprint

  • Everyone loves to party it up in “The Yard”, but it is easy to get carried away.  Remember you are “running” to bars, there is no shortage of liquor.

Always keep an eye on the cart.

  •  Never leave your cart alone.  Ever!

Be creative

  • Nobody remembers lame carts.

Mark says, If you’re going for an elaborate build start as early as you can! We’ve never ended with a cart that was constructed as we initially planned. The Chidiots have a little motto that we live by, “lock it down Jan 1“. There are only so many weekends in January/February and some of those will be lost to changes in the plan and/or real life. Being able to have an agreed upon theme by January 1st (and sticking to it) is a huge bonus.

Here are the four key steps to be a kick ass fundraiser:

Don’t be afraid to beg!

  • You will need to ask your friends and family for donations, a lot.  It seems obnoxious because it is.  But then you have to remind yourself and everyone it is for a good cause.

The 3GS&T way to fund raise, We each send out fundraising emails to our entire contacts list at least twice during February, in addition to posting the link to our individual and team Facebook pages about twice a week until we get within a couple weeks of the race, then it’s daily. I call out individuals and shame them if they haven’t donated, but, Amy adds “I’m pushy like that.” 

Commit to the cause!

  • Explain to everyone what you’re doing and why you’re doing it better than everyone else

Be thankful!

  • Thank everyone who donates.  While people don’t generally donate for notoriety, everyone likes it.  Say how fantastic they are for donating and use this as an opportunity to remind everyone to donate.

Pro Tip from the CHIditods,  If possible, incorporate your donators into your cart. One year our theme was Lollapalooza and the donator names were plastered on the side of the cart in the style of the Lolla band lineup. Of course top donations were the headliners.

Make a nemesis!

  • Friendly competition is a great way to get people to donate.  Especially when they are made to feel like they are part of the cause.

Amy and 3Gs&T have their own Facebook page. She says “We also have a group of non-racing friends that issues an annual fundraising matching challenge on Facebook. It not only motivates us, but inspires our friends and families.”

CHIditaBowl III

Registered to race in CHIditarod XII? Wondering how to get your fundraising started? Come to CHIditaBowl and you will be helping your team reach its goals! It’s a great way to get tips on how to build your cart, bounce ideas off each other, and get to see people you may not have seen since last year.

What is ChiditaBowl? It is a great way  to socialize, pick up some merch ahead of race day, have a few beers and bowl with fellow racers with out the chaos and sabotage of race day. You buy a ticket and it’s good for SIX hours of bowling and beer

Where does it go down? Timber Lanes 1851 W. Irving Park, just off the Brown Line and down the street from Damen and Irving Park.

When and how much? January 28th from 9pm until 3am, $45 per person. Tickets are available here.


What else should I know? There will also be a fantastic chance to win some amazing drawing prizes! Burlesque packages, photo shoots, brewery tours, White Sox tickets, Chicago Bulls autographed item, and some boozy related ones too!