Okay some people with celiac and a gluten-sensitivity may feel like a zombie when getting glutened, but who would think that a zombie walk would be a great way to raise celiac awareness and money for celiac disease research?
Jason Gornto, of Peru, Indiana, and his wife Denise, did!
The Gornto’s daughter, Samanatha, was diagnosed with celiac disease at two years old. “Once we had a solid knowledge of the disease and had mastered gluten free shopping, cooking etc. we wanted to let others know about it,” Jason Gornto explained when we chatted via email over the last week.
“There are plenty of 5Ks, golf outings, etc. to raise awareness for events but we wanted something different. Something eye-catching. Something that would be fun for any age.” — Jason Gornto, co-organizer Peru Zombie Walk
In 2011, the Gorntos organized the first Peru Zombie Walk based in Peru, Indiana (about 90 miles north of Indianapolis). They got the idea from a similar one in Europe.
What is a Zombie Walk? Well basically, people dress up and act like zombies in a police-escorted “parade”. Then it all ends in one location with a flash mob, Thriller-style dance. Choreographers posted the flash mob dance and tutorial on YouTube (you can see both at the Peru Zombie Walk website).
The event has around 150-200 participants each year with more than 100 spectators. Features for this year’s walk (which happened May 24th, 2014) included professional makeup artists, a photo booth, a haunted house, and vendors.
Of course a parade that travels down the main street of town with a police escort will need a permit.
“When the local government wanted an explanation for a Zombie Walk to approve our parade permit, we began to realize the similarities in celiac disease and zombies,” Jason Gornto said. “Our daughter’s symptoms included: pale and gaunt complexion, insatiable appetite but gained no nourishment, and she acted in a ‘fog’.” With that explanation the city approved the permit and planning began!
In 2014 a $15 participant fee got them entry to the event, a t-shirt, gluten free food samples and information on celiac disease. For an additional $5, makeup artists would help “zombie up” your look.
The final tally is still being determined for the 2014 zombie walk, but Gornto says to date they have raised thousands of dollars over the years for the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Research Center. Interested in making the trek to the event next year? Watch for updates at PeruZombieWalk.org.