Two years ago, Newark resident Jason Smith found himself at the Delaware Children's Hospital worried sick about his daughter. Bit on the face by a dog, she faced several harrowing days of tests, surgery and recovery. It should have been the worst experience of his life but it became an inspiration.
"As my daughter slept and recovered, my sister, a nurse there, walked me around," Smith said. "And, you know what? Everybody was fantastic. People have no idea what an amazing resource that hospital is."
As his daughter's scars healed, Smith couldn't shake the memories of what he saw there and decided that he had to do something and give back. But, he also wanted to engage the young, professional crowd. A pub crawl seemed like a fun way to pull people in but there's nothing new about that. Then, it hit him: zombies. Turn the pub crawl into a zombie walk.
So, last year, Smith launched his first Wilmington Zombie Walk. Through little more than word-of-mouth, he and 40 to 50 other undead souls managed to raise just under $1,000.
"I know it doesn't sound like a lot but I was so pleased that we were able to donate that much money," Smith said. "But, it wouldn't have happened without the people who participated. A lot of them gave more money that we asked for. And, it wasn't just people I know. I was actually surprised by the amount of people I didn't know who were willing to participate. It was so heart-warming."
Hoping to increase last year's total donation, Smith is looking for even more zombies to participate in what is now the 2nd Annual Wilmington Zombie Walk.
Here's what to know before you go:
A zombie make-over
The zombie walk will start at 2 p.m. at Kid Shelleen's in Wilmington. The group will stay there for the first three hours, transforming anybody who wants a little help.
"We'll have make-up artists there who can turn the most innocent faces into nightmares of the undead," said Smith. "So, you can show up, having done your own make-up or you can let us do it for you."
Smith added that the cost for the zombie makeovers are just $20 per person.
The walk includes five stops, all relatively close to one another in the Trolley Square area. Following the initial meet-up at Kid Shelleen's, the group will move on to Anejo's, Del Rose, Catherine Rooney's and Logan House.
"Last year, people started filtering off around 9:30 p.m. but we'll keep going as long as people are up for it," Smith said.
Page 2 of 2 - Can't make it before 5 p.m.? That's OK.
"This is a fundraiser so we're not going to turn anybody away," Smith said. "I just ask that people make sure to check in with us so we can keep an accurate count of how much money we're raising."
There's going to be more than just walking and drinking. The group is organizing raffles and prize packages as well. There will be a 50/50 drawing and raffles for gift cards, too.
"Our biggest sponsor, United Distributors, is putting together one of the best raffle items," Smith said. "Somebody could walk away with the first two seasons of 'The Walking Dead,' a bottle of Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum and some other zombie-inspired trinkets."
Good zombie fun
Smith said that one of the best parts about last year was all the people he met.
"It was such a fun day," Smith said. "And, not only did I meet new friends who participated but people were coming up to us all night, posing for pictures with us and talking to us. We have a blast."
Smith added that while the event is a lot of fun, his main goal is to get people to think about the hospital and the sick kids there.
"Seeing what those kids have to go through every day will change you," Smith said. "I just want people to think about them and give what they can."
Because the group will be visiting local bars, participants do need to be at least 21 years old. However, dressing up like a zombie is actually not required.
"Dressing up like a zombie is fun but I don't want people to stay away because of that. Just come and hang out with us," Smith said. "You'll still have a lot of fun."