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Zombies Infest Park For A Good Cause

Widespread reports circulating on Saturday reporting that Brady Park and the Massapequa Preserve were overrun with undead ghouls attacking passersby were actually...quite true. However, there’s more to a story...these zombies were actually on the prowl not for human flesh, but a good cause.


The RunDead is a 5K trail run through the pathways of the Massapequa Preserve that serves as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics of New York; but, as any fan of a George Romero movie or the television show “The Walking Dead” can attest to, it’s the obstacles that set it apart from other fundraisers.


“We have participants dressed as zombies who attack the runners,” said Diane Colonna, Long Island Regional Director of the Special Olympics of New York. “There are two types of zombies; crawlers, who move slowly, and runners, who can chase the participants of the race. Also, the participants are wearing flag football belts with three flags each...the goal of the zombies is to take as many flags as possible.”


Special Olympics participants do not pay and are not charged a fee to compete in the organization’s sporting events, so fundraisers such as the RunDead are vital to its continued service of athletes with special needs. Colonna said that after the huge success of their inaugural RunDead, held last year in upstate New York, she knew they had to expand the event’s scope into other areas.


“We’re always looking for different events to do on Long Island. Massapequa and the Town of Oyster Bay were very accommodating and welcoming to us, and Brady Park is a very beautiful place,” she said. “With the Special Olympics, we do a lot of ‘out of the box’ kind of events, extreme events...we do Polar Plunges, Rugged Runs, Zombie Runs, and it’s out way of supporting out athletes who are doing special things themselves every day.”


While runners who lose all three flags are still allowed to finish the race, those who retain them win bragging rights; in addition, the top three male and females finishers win prizes donated by Amp Fitness of Massapequa Park. 


Alexa Toyas of Massapequa, a freshman at Farmingdale State College, said that she was a participant in the RunDead for very personal reasons; however, while not the best runner, she said she was going to give it her best shot.


“I did the race because I used be involved with kids with special needs, and I wanted to continue that while I’m in college,” she said. “However, I’m not a fast runner, so the zombies might get me.”


Toyas’ friend, fellow Massapequan and Adelphi University freshman Erin McCarthy, was clearly quite wary of any upcoming run-ins she might have with the undead littering the trail ways of the Preserve.


“I think this is a really good cause to raise money for the awareness of the Special Olympics,” she said. “This is going to be my worst nightmare, being chased by zombies...I’ve never run in my life, so we’ll have to see how it goes.”


Seventh grader Jack Abrams of Massapequa was hoping that his speed and small stature would give him an advantage against the hordes of undead that were waiting to get their rotting hands on him in the race that day.


“I’m a good runner,” he said. “It’s going to be pretty creepy when the zombies are coming out of the woods at me, but I don’t think they’re going to get my flags. I’m going to win this thing!” 


Chris Rahner of Little Neck, Queens, was participating with his brother Billy of Massapequa and other volunteers as a part of “Team Mikey,” a group of people supporting Rahner’s three year-old son who has cerebral palsy.


“My brother suggested that we run in the RunDead for my son, so we formed Team Mikey...we thought we’d get many ten people but we now have over 50,” Rahner said. “It started out as something small but we turned into the biggest team, and we’re proud to support the Special Olympics...I’m hoping one day my son can participate.”


Although usually not very articulate, being dead and all, a few of the higher-functioning zombies offered their perspective on this chartable event.


Vincent Conforti of Rockville Centre, who played one of the dreaded zombies accosting the runners, combined his character with perhaps the only thing more frightening than just a plain, old, run-of-the-mill undead creature...yes, he actually played a zombie clown.


“I’m a zombie fan, and everyone is particularly afraid of clowns, so I dressed this way to put just a little more fear into this event,” he said. “This event just sounded so exciting, I just knew I had to, I don’t mind scaring people.”


John Farrell of Massapequa, a member of the Nassau County Police Department Explorers group, was waiting in the dense brush of  Massapequa Preserve to accost the innocent runners in the RunDead; he discussed his strategy on being an effective zombie.


“I’m trying to find a choke point where the road really becomes narrow and just sit there,” he said. “I just wait for the runners to come by, pounce, and get their flags. And as you can see by all the flags on the ground here, it seems to be working.”


To find out more about the RunDead, visit