Zombies and health care appear to be an unlikely duo, but not for the Student Wellness Initiative Towards Community Health. With the goal of raising money to fund its initiatives, SWITCH is putting on a Zombie Run, open to students and the public alike.
The Zombie Run is a five kilometre run on Oct. 18 that serves as a fundraiser for SWITCH. This year marks the seventh annual run and the second year with the zombie twist.
Elizabeth Plishka, SWITCH volunteer, board member and second-year health studies student at the University of Saskatchewan, speaks to the concept of zombies and the run.
“We’ve been doing a five kilometre fundraiser for a while now and last year, to try and reach more people, we wanted to give it a theme,” Plishka said. “One of our main audiences is university students, so we definitely have a lot of students running.”
Operating since 2005, SWITCH is a student-run group that works to improve social determinants of health. It operates out of a clinic on 20th Street and provides opportunities for students to volunteer in their area of study, while having a positive impact on the health and education of Saskatoon’s core communities. The Zombie Run will fund SWITCH’s initiatives year-long, including childcare programs, addiction and mental health outreach and needle exchange services.
Plishka has been a volunteer at SWITCH for three years now, and has also taken an active part in planning the Zombie Run as a member of the Programming and Special Events Committee.
“You can sign up as either a runner or a zombie; we have prizes for both the runners and the zombies. The runners each get two lives, and it’s just like a flag football deal. You can sign up as a zombie to chase the runners — and there’s prizes for the deadliest zombie, and for runners that make it through with their lives,” Plishka said.
To add some interactive survival elements, the Zombie Run will also feature obstacle course portions, including an army crawl. Plishka is going to be a runner herself and is excited about the zombie theme.
“[Zombies] just seem to be really popular nowadays… we thought that it would help attract some people. The run has always been around October, so it fits well with Halloween,” Plishka said.
Aside from professional mentors who guide decision-making and assist the student volunteers, the clinic is entirely student-run. Plishka insists that volunteers are always welcome and can commit to any amount of time that works with their busy student schedules.
Students can get involved by signing up to participate in the Zombie Run and collect pledges that will raise additional funds for SWITCH. Volunteer opportunities don’t stop there however; the zombie theme wouldn’t be complete without a little fake blood, and students who are more artistically inclined can volunteer their time as a make-up artist.
Plishka insists that SWITCH presents an excellent opportunity for students and acknowledges that her own experience has been an enlightening one.
“Being involved in SWITCH, I have learnt so much about myself but also about lower income populations. Most of our clients are lower income and one of the things SWITCH focuses on are the social determinants of health, like how income and housing can affect people’s health. I’ve just learnt so much about how those things can affect health,” Plishka said.
Although several volunteers at SWITCH are U of S students pursuing degrees in various programs across campus, Plishka insists an interest in healthcare is not a requirement for taking part in the initiative.
“Being involved in SWITCH is almost my stress relief — it’s such an amazing opportunity that I can’t even put into words,” Plishka said. “Even for people who aren’t necessarily looking to get into healthcare… we have so many opportunities apart from just the healthcare side of things. So people outside of healthcare can definitely still learn and get involved.”
Naomi Zurevinski / Editor-in-Chief
Graphic: Jack Thompson