Kids Learn How To Survive In Zombie Camp

Aug 5, 2017
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Summer camps are supposed teach skills like playing music like B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music. There's a camp in suburban Denver that teaches youngsters traditional skills like fire making and shelter building and, as Luke Runyon from member station KUNC reports, how to avoid having your brain eaten.

LUKE RUNYON, BYLINE: Arguably, the best part of zombie camp comes on the last day. Two dozen middle schoolers arm themselves with water guns, hide behind trees and prepare to take on a zombie horde.

LINDEY PESEK: (Shouting) The apocalypse is starting. Go.

RUNYON: That scream belongs to camp director Lindsey Pesek.

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RUNYON: And those groans belong to volunteer zombies. They're shuffling across this wooded park in Aurora, Colo., arms outstretched, looking for - brains?

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RUNYON: These kids have been preparing for this moment all week. Just before the apocalypse, I asked 10-year-old Samara Valdez what she was hoping to learn from zombie camp.

SAMARA VALDEZ: How to survive in the wild, just in case.

RUNYON: What about that is intriguing to you?

VALDEZ: It's just a feeling of being outside 'cause, usually, kids just stay inside and watch TV. And I think that nature is a pretty cool thing.

RUNYON: But you might also need to guard yourself against nature. And that's how zombie camp starts its first day.

PESEK: Your first survival lesson is right now - OK? - which is how to build a shelter.

RUNYON: Camp director Lindsey Pesek passes out a tarp, a few stakes, some string. Their task is to build a shelter to keep themselves safe. And zombies are top of mind.

PESEK: Why do we need a shelter?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: So we can hide from the zombies?

PESEK: So you can hide from zombies. Good. What else? What are we hiding from right now?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: The sun.

PESEK: The sun. Right. Getting a sunburn during the apocalypse would most likely really, like, just slow you down.

RUNYON: The camp is in its second year. Kristen Allen organizes it for the city of Aurora.

KRISTEN ALLEN: The zombie is attractive to youth right now. It gives them a reason to be stoked the first minute they come in of, like, when are we going to see the zombies. Like, when are we going to fight?

RUNYON: Even though you can see the Rocky Mountains from Aurora, a lot of these kids are city kids. They're not camping every weekend. Throughout this week, they learn fire building, knot tying and self-defense, you know, to fight off zombies. Byron Fanning's two sons are here for the second summer.

BYRON FANNING: They'll be doing a nature walk. And they'll talk about, well, when the zombie apocalypse happens, and you can't go home anymore, here's what you need to eat to survive. And it keeps the kids interested. And it keeps it fun.

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RUNYON: Back at the zombie apocalypse, the water gun fight wraps up. The kids say the self-defense lesson was the most helpful in evading the zombies. But camp director Lindsey Pesek has one final lesson.

PESEK: Because our zombies are volunteers, can we say thank you?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Thank you.

RUNYON: Apparently, you can use the apocalypse to teach good manners, too. And as we're wrapping up, I give 11-year-old Angelo O’Dorisio well wished against the zombie horde.

All right, guys. Good luck out there.

ANGELO O’DORISIO: Thank you.

RUNYON: I hope you survive.

O’DORISIO: I hope you survive, too. The last thing we want is killing someone from NPR.

RUNYON: I appreciate that.

For NPR News, I'm Luke Runyon, in Aurora, Colo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAGNUS OSTRUM'S "DANCING AT THE DUTCHTREAT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.