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Donna Rhinehard - Lady in Red
departed: 2013-08-12

The Hash House Harriers qualify as the world’s largest running club. Despite their size and having been founded in 1938, their Red Dress Run may be the only completely original idea they have ever had. And it happened nearly by accident.

On August 7, 1987, a young lady wearing a red dress emerged from an airplane that had landed in southern California to visit a friend from her high school years. Shortly thereafter, she found herself transported to Long Beach, where her friend intended to introduce her to a zany running group called the “Hash House Harriers.” One member, noting her gender and attire, urged that she “just wait in the truck” until her host returned. With that goading, she ran into history sporting her red dress and heels. Gathering for the first Red Dress Run in San Diego, 1988.

The following year (August 12, 1988), to commemorate the event, the San Diego Hash House Harriers sent “The Lady In Red” an airline ticket to attend the inaugural Red Dress Run. Hundreds of male and female hashers adorned themselves in red dresses for a spectacle widely covered by California newspapers and TV news. In addressing the crowd, The Lady In Red suggested that Hash House Harriers hold the Red Dress Run annually as an occasion be used to raise funds for local charities.

The tradition of the Hash House Harriers Red Dress Run quickly spread to every corner of the globe, including Beijing, Montreal, Ho Chi Minh City, Helsinki, Moscow, Tokyo, Washington, DC, Hobart (Australia) and countless other locations. Over the years, the Red Dress Run has been very successful in raising millions of dollars for a wide variety of local charities.  The New Orleans Hash House Harriers attracted 7,000 participants to their Red Dress Run in 2010, raising more than $200,000 for 50 local charities.

Today the Red Dress Run is an integral part of the Hash House Harriers’ heritage and is as iconic as the Royal Selangor Club where the Hash House Harriers was born and as sacred to them as founder A.S. Gispert’s drinking vessel.  It’s a tradition born before few organizations turned to running events as a way to raise money and long before anyone ran in a dress of any color.

The Hash House Harriers enjoy commonlaw protection of the phrase “Red Dress Run” with additional protections in place and still more legal protections pending.

The Lady in Red, who accidentally inspired the global Red Dress Run phenomenon died The Lady in Red suddenly and unexpectedly in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 13, 2013. Few Hash House Harriers other than A.S. Gispert have had a greater impact on hashing.

Her death was just a few days shy of her birthday, which she planned to celebrate by participating in the Red Dress Run weekend with the Phoenix Hash House Harriers. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the first official Red Dress Run, which occurred in San Diego on August 12, 1988.

Speaking to hashers gathered at the first Red Dress Run, The Lady in Red asked that the event be held annually and that it be used to benefit local charities. As a result of her request and the proliferation of the Red Dress Run to Hash House Harriers “kennels” across the world, millions of dollars have been raised. In a few instances, that support made the difference between life and death.

News of her passing spread rapidly. Stunned hashers not only offered their condolences, but also pledged to dedicate their charitable efforts in her honor. As the Red Dress Run spread, the tradition of supporting charities was occasionally lost in translation, a fact that troubled The Lady in Red. She would be heartened to know that some of those chapters added a charitable component to the Red Dress Run this year.

Misappropriation of the “Red Dress Run” name and concept by non-hashing organizations was also something that she found disturbing. She correctly perceived that “borrowing” the Hash House Harriers’ Red Dress Run could dilute its unique appeal and negatively impact its success in supporting charities.

Even before the Red Dress Run, the Lady in Red made her mark in modeling and the recording industry. She made time to raise three children, support the arts, study the culinary arts, and much more. Stories about The Lady in Red are legion. The best of them will not be told here, but if an appropriate offering of beer is made, a few may be shared.

In addition to her three children, she is survived by her mother, sister, and by four young children she was in the process of adopting.  Her father was a veteran of World War II, having served in Easy Company of Band of Brothers fame.

The Lady in Red became an ardent supporter of www.RedDressRuns.org and its various iterations shortly after it was launched in 2000. She was a frequent collaborator, partner and so much more.

She truly changed the hashing world. Not bad for a “blond Polish girl,” as she referred to herself in her typical self-depricating humor. Lady in Red, you are missed and will never be forgotten.

Many of you are aware that Lady In Red was raising four young children and it was her wish to finalize adoption of these children. Her son’s plan to continue this process to ensure the children will have a permanent loving and supporting home. Woven and embroidered Lady in Red patches are available for sale at www.hashspace.com in the open haberdashery section for $11 including shipping. $8 from every patch gets sent to the family to assist with their dream.

Thank you for all the wonderful support and generous outpouring of care, compassion and concern that really are the foundations of such a wonderful far-reaching and close-knit organization of unique characters.