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Thomas Jefferson students livin' it up as zombies for annual run

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

Their eyes glared into the space in front of them. Their bodies were stiff and they appeared unaware as students rushed past them and trumpets blared that familiar pep assembly tune.

Blood — albeit fake — dripping down their necks. Teeth marks protruding from their cheeks. Their faces were army green and many were dressed in camoflauge.

Thump. Thump.

They jumped to their feet, rushed to the floor of the Thomas Jefferson High School gymnasium, and began to perform the moves to Michael Jackson's “Thriller” in unison.

The flash mob — where nearly 40 students and staffers emerged from the stands dressed as Zombies to perform a dance — held during Thomas Jefferson's pep assembly on Friday was just one way students are attempting to “create a buzz” in the school and community about the second annual “Zombie Run: Run or Die!”

The students and teachers walked through the hall of the school dressed like zombies for much of the day Friday to add to the hype. Students also have used commercials on the school's television station, TJTV, fliers, popcorn sales, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about the event.

The 5K run/walk will be held Saturday at the Breisinger Complex, 525 Waterman East, Jefferson Hills. Registration begins at 4:30 p.m. and the race starts at 5:15 p.m. A bonfire, dance and bake sale will follow. Proceeds benefit the 2013 Thomas Jefferson High School prom.

While the event is for people of all ages, many of the advertising campaigns — led by students in the high school's newly-formed Introduction to Public Relations class, taught by teacher Lauren Geary — are targeting teens.

Last year, when the Zombie Run debuted in West Jefferson Hills, it was the elementary-aged children who were eager to participate. Yet, high schoolers were leery and the event didn't meet its target attendance, organizers said.

This year, though, many things about the event have changed, including the location.

Instead of being held on the district's cross country course, the race — where zombies chase runners in an attempt to capture their flags, and lives — will be held in the woods at a resident's home.

“It creates a scarier atmosphere,” said Thomas Jefferson junior JoAnna Clark, 16, a member of the public relations class.

The woods will allow zombies to better chase the runners in a spookier atmosphere, organizers said. And the event was moved to the evening to add to that affect.

“It's more of the creep factor,” said senior Christina Meyer, 17, also a member of the public relations class. “It makes it a lot more creepy and unexpected.”

The “zombies,” members of Thomas Jefferson High School's cross country team, will be in full-on makeup and costume, organizers promise.

“Everything you can imagine a zombie being, that's what you're going to see,” said senior Casey Chuderewicz, 18.

The evening also will include a bonfire, haunted hayrides and a dance.

And the event is at just the right time to get everyone in the mood for Halloween, said freshman Gina DiCarlo, 14.

Students in the public relations class have helped alert the community about the event — creating what they called one of the most elaborate school TV commercials in Thomas Jefferson history. Teachers dimmed the lights in homeroom classes as students watched the video.

Having a commercial on TJTV for the students to watch during homeroom was important because nearly the entire school watches the television at that time, said senior Alexis Dengler, 18.

“I feel like the video made people excited for it,” said senior Brianna Bowman, 17.

Using social media also has helped the students boost awareness.

“You can just get it out to so many more people. Nowadays, everyone seems to have a Twitter account,” said senior Madison Gentille, 17.

The event ultimately is about raising money for prom, which last year struggled to be held outside of the school's gymnasium. Although, members of the prom committee said they event is more financially sound this year and out of the red, fundraising still remains key, they said.

“Hopefully we'll raise enough money to have the prom that we want to have,” Meyer said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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