Fresno State will experience a zombie invasion on the University Student Union (USU) balcony today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. while students learn about drug and alcohol abuse.
The annual series, this year’s version of which is called the Zombie DAAWG Fest, is a brainchild of the Drug and Alcohol Awareness and Wellness Guide Program (DAAWG). Previous events of the same nature have been titled the Wicked Wellness Carnival, Fall Harvest Fest and last year’s October Wellness Fest.
The event was inspired by the increasing popularity of zombie-themed television shows like “The Walking Dead” and apocalyptic video games.
The planning committee for the event consists of five students, who are guided by Dr. Kathy Yarmo, the coordinator of health and wellness services with the Health Center on campus.
This is Yarmo’s sixth year with Fresno State overseeing the annual event. She explained that the planning committee leads the operation, and she simply provides guidance and helps each student develop ideas and build leadership skills.
Yarmo said they usually host the festivities in the memorial gardens, but decided to try the USU balcony this year. She hopes for bigger numbers than usual; the typical turnout consists of 800 to 1,500 people.
She explained that the event is also part of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, which focuses on educating students about the dangers of alcohol, substances such as marijuana and prescription drug abuse.
Although there is a serious message behind the event, Yarmo insists it provides students with fun ways to learn about staying safe.
“We’re going to have a mocktail lime slushy known as ‘Zombie Antivirus,’” Yarmo said.
In addition, a booth called “Zombie Baby On Board” will have blue and pink cotton candy and students will have the opportunity to sit with Sue Beevers, a palm reader who is often featured at events on campus.
The Bulldog Beat, a special section of the Bulldog Marching Band, will perform from 11 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. to kick off the festivities.
“We have a special surprise around 12:15, so students should really come check it out,” Yarmo said.
At the end of their visit, students will have the opportunity to fill out the back of a passport to show they survived the zombies and give their feedback on the event, as well as entering a raffle, Yarmo said.
The prizes include a T-shirt, a sweatshirt, gift cards for Starbucks and Juice It Up! She added that there will be a Kindle Fire available as the grand prize.
The Kindle Fire was funded by the California Health Collaborative’s Performing Above the High (PATH) and Lock It Up, which focus on the dangers of marijuana and prescription drug abuse respectively.
The promotional materials and zombie passport were designed by senior graphic design student Bianca Ancheta, who works in the health and wellness services department of the Health Center as well.
“They told me the theme and that they wanted the colors red, green, black and silver,” Ancheta said of working with the planning committee.
Ancheta admitted she doesn’t care for zombies, but is pleased with the way her work turned out and has had positive responses so far.
“I told her she should enter this in a contest of some sort,” Yarmo said.
Raising awareness through these events is so important because education is key, Yarmo said. She made an example of the campus’ Protect Your Dogs campaign, seen on posters across campus that encourage students to be aware of the signs of alcohol overdose and protecting peers.
Yarmo oversees a multitude of programs, like Fresno State Health Promotion and Wellness Services (Fresno State Health PAWS), and groups that are dedicated to promoting awareness and safety for students. She said that at the college level, for many students, partying happens often.
The campaign focuses on alcohol overdose prevention and intervention with the Watchdog Program, which takes the overall message another step further.
The Watchdog Program trains students in a workshop which lasts six hours and teaches them the necessary intervention skills and CPR. Students who complete the training receive T-shirts and watches, Yarmo said. She added that when the students wear the gear, they are seen as the new health educators and a valuable resource for their peers.
Yarmo also hopes to start a partnership with local establishments in creating incentives for a designated driver program to show appreciation for students who choose to stay sober and take care of their peers.