If you’ve ever wanted to be chased by zombies, now’s your chance.
On Oct. 20, you can be part of the Hallowrun for Hunger at Oneida Shores, which kicks off at 11 a.m. at the McKinley Shelter. The 5K course will feature student zombies from Cicero-North Syracuse High School, who will chase runners as they make their way along the course.
When: 11 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 20. Registration begins at 10 a.m., followed by a free kids’ run.
Where: Oneida Shores Park, Brewerton
Why: To benefit the Food Bank of Central New York
To register, sign up directly through active.com or click through the link at hallowrun.com. Registration is $25; active.com takes a $2.25 fee, but the rest goes directly to the Food Bank of Central New York, the main food supplier to 268 emergency food programs in 11 counties in the state.
But it’s not the zombies’ hunger that race organizers Liz Westfall and Megan Cuculich care about.
Westfall and Cuculich, both rising sophomores at C-NS, are much more concerned with the real hunger they see in the community every day.
“We started doing this event with the kids for Feed the Starving Children, and they were really inspired by how many people are hungry,” said Veronica Westfall, Liz’s mom. “In 2011, we found a website for Halloween for Hunger, [which encourages kids to collect canned goods for the hungry instead of trick-or-treating on Halloween], and it got bigger from there.”
Liz and Megan’s efforts began in seventh grade, and every Halloween, their food drives have grown. So far, the girls have collected more than 1,500 pounds of food for the Food Bank of CNY. Last year alone, the collected more than 1,000 pounds.
This year, the two, both of whom are on C-NS’s cross country team, decided they wanted to marry their two loves: running and helping the hungry.
“We always do pasta parties before a big race, and we bring pasta in for the Food Bank. We do a lot of runs that help charities,” Cuculich said. “It seemed like a natural thing to do.”
So the girls, with Veronica Westfall’s help and that of several fellow C-NS students, started working to get the 5K off the ground. They sought a venue, corporate sponsors and vendors, set up a website, mapped out a route, did photo shoots, put together promotional materials and more, putting in hundreds of hours to pull together the race.
“We’ve still got a lot more to do, but it’s pretty fun,” Cuculich said.
In keeping with the Halloween tradition, they decided to add zombies to the course, a popular element at many recent races. The spooks will be played by C-NS students, and their makeup will be done by a student makeup team led by student makeup artist Josh DiFabio.
Without the support from the students and staff at C-NS, Liz Westfall said the race would never have gotten off the ground.
“Nearly everyone I talked to at the beginning said we would never be able to do this because it was just too big of a project for a bunch of kids,” she said. “Ellie Peavey at the C-NS Optimist Club was the first person who really encouraged me to just go for it. She even gave us our first TV advertising when she and I appeared on ‘Bridge Street’ together. Their motto is bringing out the best in kids, and they really do that.”
Westfall and Cuculich recognize how fortunate they are, not only to have the support of their peers and teachers, but to have enough food on the table when so many people have to go without.
“It’s sad to know some people go to bed starving,” Cuculich said.
“When we go into the Food Bank, we realize we’re really fortunate,” Westfall said. “Sometimes it’s really hard to believe we’re so fortunate.”
The girls are seeking runners to participate in the Hallowrun; to sign up, visit active.com or hallowrun.com. They expect the run to sell out, so register soon. The full registration fee of $25, save for $2.25 per runner (which goes to active.com for the use of their site), goes to the Food Bank, so the students are looking for corporate donors to help pay for runners’ T-shirts as well as other fees. They’re also hoping to get a major radio station to broadcast from the event. The Cicero Police Department has signed on to provide officers during, before and after the race.
If you’d like to donate to the Food Bank but you’re not a runner, you can do so at the website, as well. For more information, visit hallowrun.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.