Zombies set to take over village – for a good cause

WELLSVILLE -Wellsville residents who see hordes of the undead running, walking and possibly staggering through the streets of the village on Saturday should not be alarmed. It’s not the zombie apocalypse, though it’s hoped to be the start of a resurrection.

Wellsville Back from the Dead (BFTD) will be hosting its inaugural Zombie Run 5K on Saturday morning in the village. The run will start at 9 a.m., with the walkers taking off at 9:15. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and will continue through the opening ceremony at 8 a.m.

All proceeds from the event, including entry fees and donations from local residents, will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.

Louie D’Angelo, a member of Wellsville BFTD, says the recently formed non-profit organization hopes to bring interest and people back to the village through events like the Zombie Run. “That’s what we want to do, bring Wellsville from where it’s been and kind of rejuvenate the town,” he said.

The course begins at Wellsville High School on Bengal Boulevard, running down Clark Avenue to 21st Street, before looping back past Nicholson Stadium, then heading up Commerce Street to Main Street and Riverside Avenue before turning at Sixth Street onto Broadway and then Commerce, heading back toward the high school.

While participants can choose whether they wish to be human or zombie – with members of the latter group encouraged to show up in the appropriate zombie make-up and accessories – the more official designation is between runners and walkers.

D’Angelo says participants will be confronted with obstacles scattered throughout the course, including hay bales, tires and possibly a mud pit. Human runners may also expect some zombies to be hiding amongst the obstacles.

An early idea of having zombies chase the human runners to capture flags for points has been scrapped. D’Angelo says they decided it would add too much complication for the first year, but may revisit the idea in future runnings. “We want to just take it easy and see how this one goes,” he said.

Derek Miller, who spearheaded the project, is a village native and 11-year Army veteran who heard about the Wounded Warrior Project while stationed in Iowa. He says he was very impressed with what he saw. “I’ve always wanted to do something to put my part forth,” he said. Upon returning to Wellsville, he was determined to do something both for the cause and for the village.

Miller had heard about zombie runs before and saw such an event as the opportunity to bring community members together while helping military veterans in the process.

His partner on the event and the foundation of Wellsville BFTD was fellow village native Rebecca Springer, retired from 20 years of service with the Navy and now serving as deputy director of the Hancock County Office of Emergency Management.

Jeff Haugh, who serves as Exaulted Ruler at the Elks Lodge 1040 in Wellsville, said the lodge was glad to assist in the event. It will serve as site of the after-race trophy ceremony and party, which will feature live music by the U.S. 3 Band and Bret Michaels tribute singer Gary Barker, a Chinese auction, and beer tent.

“The Elks is all for supporting anything veteran-oriented,” Haugh said. “So we took this cause under our wing to have everything here.”

Haugh thanked Walmart, which is a partner with the national Wounded Warrior effort and has donated supplies, including 42 cases of bottled water that will be distributed to the runners and walkers on race day. The store will also lend personnel to help out on race day. “Walmart really stepped up to help us out on this,” he said.

Interest in the event has been huge, Miller said, with more than 80 runners from as far away as Florida preregistered, in ages ranging from teens through people in their 80s. Registrations will be accepted through the morning of the event.

Despite the fun nature of the event, Miller has serious ambitions for Wellsville BFTD. His ultimate goal is to raise enough money to be able to support local veterans coming home from active duty and provide them with the support they need, including financial help, while they transition back into civilian life.

“I want to have it eventually where veterans can come in, and we can provide that assistance,” he said. “Take care of our own when they come home,” Haugh said in agreement.