Zombie run to benefit Home of the Sparrow

The runners in an upcoming Home of the Sparrow race are out for flesh or brainzzz or both.

The agency is hosting its first Zombie 5K Run/1 Mile Walk Oct. 5 to raise money for its efforts to help homeless women and children. Runners start at 8:30 a.m., while the walk begins at 9:30 a.m. at Three Oaks Recreation Area, 3317 Northwest Hwy., Crystal Lake.

Everyone involved, including the runners and volunteers, are encouraged to dress as zombies, or in some sort of Halloween costume, said Debbie DeGraw, vice president of marketing and development for Home of the Sparrow.

Walkers will have the choice to walk through the “Zombie Zone” or the family friendly “Safe Zone.” Strollers are welcome in the “Safe Zone.” Runners ages 12 and older can “Run for their Lives” through the “Zombie Zone.”

Looking for ways to encourage donations, agency officials were brainstorming current fads, and someone said, “What about a zombie run?” DeGraw said.

“It seems like everybody is into zombies right now,” she said. “It’s a zombie craze out there.”

The race is only the beginning of what organizers hope to become an annual fundraiser. They looked at other successful zombie-themed races throughout the country, some of which include zombies chasing the runners.

But Home of the Sparrow decided this year to create the “Zombie Zone,” encouraging volunteers to dress up and “add to the aesthetics, the feeling of zombies all over,” DeGraw said.

Following the race, participants are invited to a “Monster Mash Party” with face painting, pumpkin painting an award for the best zombie. 

“We opted for a very family friendly one this year, but we might branch out into a nighttime scarier version next year,” she said. “We hope to embellish it as we keep going, and get better at it.”

The goal is to raise at least $20,000 for the agency, which has seen the number of people in need of help more than double this year. 

About 100 runners are signed up so far for the event, which asks participants to pay a minimum registration fee of $35.

They’re encouraged to raise additional funds by creating their own personal fundraising page on the Home of the Sparrow website at www.hosparrow.org. T-shirts will be given to the first 100 participants raising $150 or more.

“Send emails to friends and family and set a goal,” DeGraw said. “Put it on a Facebook page and ask for $10 or $5. You can reach your goal pretty quickly that way.” 

The money raised will help meet the growing needs of those served by the agency. The average number helped has gone from 100 annually to an expected 225 this year, DeGraw said. 

To meet the demand, Home of the Sparrow has expanded its housing, adding 13 new units of affordable housing and more support for “rapid re-housing.” 

Through that program, families are taken out of homelessness and put into housing subsidized by Home of the Sparrow for six months until they’re stable enough to pay for it on their own. 

“This money is going to go a long way in helping the number of people served,” DeGraw said.

Participants will run on various surfaces, including asphalt, concrete and gravel. The race is not timed, but the top three finishers will receive awards, DeGraw said.

“A lot of runners we’ve talked to are using this to prepare themselves for bigger races that are timed,” she said. 

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