If Calgary ever comes under siege by armies of lurching, moaning undead, you can bet Tara McLaughlin will be prepared. She's already had plenty of practice – the 31-year-old graphic designer organized Apocalypse Wars: The Running Dead, a charity fundraiser that pitted over 100 hunters and zombies against one another in a doomsday version of Capture the Flag on Aug. 11. The hunters' mission: to retrieve hidden vials of antidote, using only stamina, speed and, of course, brains (if the zombies don't devour theirs first).
All proceeds from the $25 tickets went to Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids and the Jesse Kinley Memorial Fund, two local charities that provide underprivileged kids with nutritious lunches and opportunities to play sports.
Calgary has an annual Zombie Walk in October, which is really fun, but as I was telling a friend of mine one day, the coolest thing about zombies is hunting them. So why not organize an event around that, and make it for charity? He told a bunch of people about it, and they were really into it. It took off from there.
We officially launched the website in March, and the response was huge. We expanded the event to two games of an hour each, and a surprising number of people signed up for both – they wanted to play for both sides.
We chose to support two kids' charities not just for the great work they do, but because children are the future in the apocalypse. And we liked that they do school lunches and sports, which ties into eating brains and chasing people.
For everyone to have fun, get dirty, and raise $4,000.
We're trying to help the community through a shared interest – in this case, it's zombies. And we're bringing together different kinds of people.
We had makeup artists donating their time so the zombies can get bloodied up, and filmmakers and photographers who were on hand with their cameras. A local gallery will showcase some of the photos, and we had an after-party at Beckham's Pub.
We had so many great sponsors that 100 per cent of our ticket sales go directly to charity.
I think zombies are so popular right now because there's this fascination with epidemics, and what would happen if most of humanity succumbed to a virus. And there's some core human fears about what happens after death. If there was a zombie apocalypse, who would survive? How would you escape? Could you bring your dog?
My dad. He's an intelligent, hard-working, community-minded person, and impressing him is near and dear to me. He liked the whole zombie idea. "Good for you," he said.
If all goes well, we'll have an apocalypse war every year. It won't necessarily be zombies – it could be aliens, killer robots, or whatever people are into.
I've learned a ton, since I've never organized anything this big apart from my wedding. I've met so many people in the underground horror community.
There's a really lively scene here – there's the Demonika Symphony of Horrors, Evil Dead: the Musical, Calgary Horror-Con. Everyone's actually really, really nice.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Special to The Globe and Mail