Zombies walk for hope at annual Apocalypse
What do zombies and cancer have in common? That’s a question Bradley Egel, founder of the “Walking Dead”-themed cancer charity The Walking Hope, gets asked all the time.
“I was looking for a way to fundraise, and I was just getting into ‘The Walking Dead’ as a fan,” Egel, whose charity will sponsor this Saturday’s Detroit Zombie Apocalypse III, says. “I started to realize the show isn’t about zombies. It’s about what you do when your life is turned upside-down overnight and the people around you are people you have to trust with your life all of a sudden. And every day is sort of a discouraging, difficult scenario, and yet you push through that with hope. That describes a cancer journey perfectly.”
In the two years Egel has been running The Walking Hope, he has raised over $40,000 for the American Cancer Society by selling T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “Cancer Fears the Walker.” More than 8,000 Walking Hope tees can be found in 19 countries around the globe.
Egel first started raising money for ACS several years ago when a friend invited him to join a Relay for Life walk. It wasn’t until years later that anyone in his life had actually been touched by cancer, but Egel says he found that first walk so inspiring that he started attending Relays regularly.
“I was so moved by the spirit of the moment,” Egel says. “I’m the kind of person that when I see something that needs to be done I just want to get involved and help. I have three children, and I want to teach them that giving back to humanity is an important quality, so I’m trying to set a good example.”
Egel says he started The Walking Hope in part to reach a demographic that might not otherwise have considered supporting the fight against cancer.
“I wanted to bring the cancer charity aspect to a new audience that might not be connected to it for various reasons,” he says. “Cancer touches everyone, but everyone that gets involved with The Walking Hope hasn’t necessarily been touched by it yet. You don’t have to be personally injured by something to want to help other people who are. That sort of selfless living enriches everyone’s lives.”
The Detroit Zombie Apocalypse III will collect donations at the door for ACS in conjunction with The Walking Hope.
This year’s festivities include live music, burlesque, sideshow acts, an apocalyptic art gallery, and over 20 local vendors, each of which will be donating items to be auctioned off for ACS.
A Walking Hope sweatshirt signed by 55 “Walking Dead” cast and crew members will be auctioned off online, and Egel says he’s hoping it will sell for upwards of $2,500.
The event began as a 15th anniversary wedding vow renewal ceremony for locals Piper and Chris Smith. What began as a small celebration soon ballooned into a sprawling costume ball.
“One of the reasons Piper and I hooked up was our love for the zombie genre, and when ‘The Walking Dead’ came out we knew there was a very large subculture just bubbling up at the surface waiting for something like this,” Chris Smith says. “It started to turn into this big party, and I said to her point blank I’d feel better about this if we could turn it into a charity event.”
Sue Summers, who helped found the Detroit Zombie Apocalypse with the Smiths, says that while cancer is no laughing matter, this entertainment extravaganza is the perfect way for those with a morbid sense of humor to support the cause.
“Even though cancer is a very serious matter, raising funds for the cause doesn’t have to be,” Summers says. “You can have fun helping to fight it, and that’s what this event is all about.”
Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
8 p.m. Saturday
Tangent Gallery &
Hastings Street Ballroom
715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit
$10 suggested donation