It’s Halloween season. Choose a movie, and you’ll be entertained by the dramatic adventures of the last people on Earth fighting for their survival against a horde of zombies. You’ll shiver with the thrill of the protagonist narrowly escaping contact with a deteriorating human and you’ll avert your eyes at the nasty visuals of the living dead.
At Plank Junior High School on Saturday, October 20th, middle school students were experiencing that thrill as well. But they weren’t reacting in fear.
On the freezing Saturday, October 20, 2018, Plank held a fundraiser in the form of a “Zombie Fun Run.” High school age volunteers dressed as zombies were adorned in tattered clothing, with pale makeup brightened by fake blood, wounds, and scars. The volunteers, with cauldrons of brightly colored paint in hand, were scattered throughout a half mile path lined with glow sticks.
The participants would run past the volunteers’ territory and the volunteers would emerge from behind bushes and trees, attempting to tag each participant with paint until they left. Because each zombie couldn’t leave their own designated territory, the participant only needed to get past them before facing them once again on the run back to Plank.
Veteran zombie volunteer and East senior Sarah Donnelly looks forward to the event every year because it allows her to see people that she hasn’t seen in an extremely long time and to spread the joy that she felt when she participated in the event when she attended Plank. This is Donnelly’s fourth year participating in the event.
“It was so much fun. It’s a good way to get outside and to be out active, in the Halloween season. I am a huge fan of Halloween, so it’s a good way to get me to go out and run, spend time with friends, get a little scared, and meet people that I’ve never met before,” Donnelly said.
To Donnelly, the event gives high schoolers a chance to remember middle school and relate to the current middle school students and by giving the community a chance to connect.
Last year’s turnout was quite small according to senior Kristina Vesta, but she said that this year they did a better job of spreading the word about the event. Her overall response to the event was a positive and she said that it seemed to be the same for the Plank students.
“I did it last year and like a lot of the middle schoolers would come up and be like, ‘Come chase me!” kind of like more of a game than scaring them,” Vesta said.
Senior Leilani Fergus said that through the event the middle school students have the ability to maintain a better connection to the high schoolers, because the collaborative experience allows the younger students to have a positive experience with the older ones.
“I think it makes the high schoolers seem a little more down to earth… [having] fun and enjoy[ing] themselves with the middle schoolers, and be[ing] that figure that the middle schoolers can not be afraid of and look up to,” Fergus said.
Jacquie Bucher, who has been President of the Home School Association at Plank for the past three years, said that an important element to the Zombie Run is the ability for students of all different ages to participate.
“By using the volunteers at the high school age, they can come in and interact with the middle schoolers.
But then when the middle schoolers leave to go to high school, they know they can come back and still be a participant if they want to be,” Bucher said.
Melissa Kimber, a volunteer and a teacher’s assistant at Plank, said while also being a great opportunity for connection through different age groups, the zombie run is also a very important event for the school itself.
“I did it last year and it was just super fun … and without volunteers, honestly, these kinds of activities can’t happen. The school really needs these kinds of things,” Kimber said.
The registration cost for participants attending the event, which included a t-shirt, was $30. All of the proceeds for the Zombie Run fundraiser go back into funding for the school.
“[All] the money that we fundraise, we give back into the school. We award grants to the teachers, so every spring we have a grant process … This past school year, [the] 2017-2018 year, we were able to award almost $12 thousand in teacher grants,” Bucher added.
The $12 thousand accumulated last year was not entirely from the Zombie Run fundraiser, but all of the proceeds from the event were a part of that final total.
“[The run] was fun for me, because I got [to interact with] a lot of nice [middle schoolers],” Junior Danielle Pavlat said.
Pavlat added that even though she came across a few pre-teens who were a little generous with profane language, the run was overall a positive experience.
Freshman James Schwarz, though he didn’t know about the zombie run during his time at Plank, was intrigued by the fun night that the run provided.
“I saw it and [thought to myself], that seems like a cool opportunity to do something,” Schwarz said.
The frigid bite of the October night seemed to do nothing to diminish the number of students that showed up. To Bucher, the turnout was better than she expected, with the final count being approximately 100 students.
“I think it is one of the better events that Plank Junior High holds … it’s a really easy and a really fun way to bring people together,” Donnelly added.