Cindy Bray is scared of zombies.
So, while the founder and executive director of HOPE Services — a vocational service provider for those with disabilities — decided to hold a 5K where zombies jump out and even chase the runners, Bray wanted no part of the undead.
“When we created this event, we knew it would be fun, but Cindy gets scared — I’m scared of zombies,” Bray said with a laugh. “All our zombies were volunteers — all teenagers, but high school kids aren’t that scary.”
The frights, and delights, were abundant when HOPE Services held its Run For Hope … And Your Life! Zombie 5K and 1K Fun Run on Oct. 28 at the Tampa Premium Outlets in Lutz. It was the inaugural fundraising event for the provider that has been helping teens and adults living with disabilities and special needs secure and maintain meaningful, competitive and integrated employment since April 2003.
The funds raised from the nearly 100 participants went into the nonprofit’s scholarship fund.
In February, HOPE Services opened a state-of-the-art Life Skills & Vocational Training Center in Land O’ Lakes, and Bray says fundraisers like the 5K — and the yearly Dance Your Dream “prom” event — support their efforts to help those needing assistance in learning life skills.
“We don’t want anyone to walk in the doors at HOPE and not be able to afford it,” Bray said. “This run and our dance help us achieve the funds to help anyone who walks in the door and get them meaningful employment.”
In the early morning of the run, participants came out and ran through the parking lot of the shopping center. About a dozen zombified teens from Land O’ Lakes and Wesley Chapel high schools were scattered along the route and did their best “Walking Dead” impersonations as runners passed by. A few younger kids, who ran the race, were also zombified, and top overall finisher, Carol Geddes, completed the race in 20:09.
Bray said in the few days leading up to the event that they got more than 50 sign-ups, as well as morning walk-ups. However, she was surprised at the zombie turnout.
“We got way more volunteers — zombies than I thought we would,” she added. “But we are thankful for that because they looked great as zombies and that they came out and volunteered their time as zombies. I’m just glad they’re not real zombies (laughs).”
HOPE Services Life Skills & Vocational Training Center
Where: 5426 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes
Details: A training center providing teens and adults living with disabilities and special needs on-site training in culinary arts/food safety, construction, customer service/retail, hospitality, computers/technology and GED education. With these skills and certifications, individuals will be able to earn higher wages, find sustainable careers and set a solid foundation for self-sufficiency.
For more information about HOPE Services, visit HOPEGetsJobs.com.
Published November 08, 2023