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Zombies. They are disgusting. They eat people. They have no redeeming qualities. Yet we are fascinated by the idea of surviving a zombie apocalypse.
Of course, if they are the fast moving, unstoppable zombies you see in the movie World War Z, forget about it…you’ve got no chance. And if you have no chance, what’s the fun?
On the other hand, if they are the zombies you see in The Walking Dead…well, let’s just say, “Game On!”
It’s just not adult nerds, geeks and doomsday preppers that have an interest in zombies. Zombies are a pop culture phenomenon. Yep! Kids like zombies, too. There are zombie books for young readers, games like Plants vs. Zombies, films (Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, ParaNorman), and Lego Walking Dead Minimates. There’s even a zombie version of Monopoly called Zombie-Opoly.
Point is, kids like zombies, and what better, safer place is there to live out that zombie fantasy, than at camp?
IF I WERE TO RUN A WEEK OF ZOMBIE CAMP, WHAT WOULD I DO?
Woodbury… Terminus…Camp Fun Times
If you’re a fan of the show (or comic series) The Walking Dead, you know that in the Zombie Apocalypse cities and towns are virtually non-existent. They are all ghost (or zombie) towns. Well, almost all. There are a few places where people have come together and created well-guarded communities, but as our group of good-hearted zombie survivalists have seen, not all towns are safe for outsiders. Our camp, however, would, of course, be a safe place.
The first order of business at Zombie Camp would be to welcome our new citizens, give them a tour of our “refuge”, and introduce them to the laws and regulations (a.k.a. camp rules) that have kept our “town” safe in these troubling times.
It’s best to have a backstory that explains everything. This helps staff buy into the theme and helps get the campers immersed in this specialty camp “world”.
A year ago a cure for a new strand of the flu was created. Governments from all nations came together to discuss this extremely aggressive flu strand. Knowing that many people opt out of getting flu shots every year, they decided to “dust” (like crop dusters do) the vaccine over every city and town using planes. It worked. The flu strand disappeared and everyone was fine…until 3 months ago when it was reported that the vaccine had mutated into a virus. Now the dead are rising. Everyone is infected. The only way for the virus to mutate and turn people into zombies is if they die or are bitten by a zombie. It seems the saliva in those who have already turned is a trigger for the virus. We are still in the early stages of the apocalypse. Parents are now taking their children to specialized camps that prepare them for zombie encounters and to use the out-of-box thinking of the young to try to come up with a proper vaccine and maybe even an antidote to the virus.
THE MAYOR and THE INCENTIVE PROGRAM
The camp is introduced to the mayor (camp director). He/she welcomes everyone and makes it clear that they are here to prepare themselves, keep the town safe and do everything they can to find a vaccine and antidote. The mayor states that nothing is done without proper incentive. Therefore, all campers will be placed on teams. The teams will be identified by a specific color and led by captains (chosen staff). Points will be earned by completing challenges, finding items, showing heroism, etc.. Huge points will go to any team that finds a cure to this virus.
I might also create a personal reward system, like a bead or badge program where campers receive a bead or badge for completing tasks, certain behavior (sharing, cleaning, leadership), winning challenges, etc.
I’m not talking about a virus breakout, I mean something that announces the beginning of the team competition portion of zombie camp. This can be something extreme like a large camp would do for Color War or just a small announcement.
If I had the funds, I would go all out with a limo, president look-a-like, secret service, zombie attack, news crew…and I’d throw in a few ninjas for good measure.
While a staff person is the team captain, I would also assign a few campers leadership positions. I would switch it up daily to give as many as I can a chance to learn some leadership.
All campers and staff would get color buffs (like on Survivor).
A zombie theme fits well with the typical resident camp activities. Framing it as training instead of just fun (which, of course, it will be anyways) would be staying true to the theme.
While guns are effective weapons against zombies, their loud sound is certain to bring more of the undead to your location. This is why a bow and some arrows are perfect for skilled archers. If you are able to get your hands on a couple of crossbows, it will certainly be a hit with the campers…um, survivors.
Setting up a shooting range for Nerf guns is a must. I would have a variety of different Nerf weapons to try out. Once a “survivor” has had the opportunity to try them all, they would be assigned a Nerf weapon. I am not sure if I would have an armory where the weapons could be checked out, or if I would allow the campers to hold on to the weapons for the week (with strict guidelines, of course).
Climbing walls, rappelling, teamwork, conquering your fears, are all elements that fit in nicely at zombie camp.
You never know where you will be when a zombie attacks. Jumping into a pool could save your life. I don’t think zombies can swim. Then again, I may be wrong. Either way, pool time is also a great way to relieve some stress that can come from all this training. Uh oh, did that drowning counselor just turn into a zombie. RUN!
If you have laser tag (or paintball) equipment then you are all set, otherwise, there are companies that will bring the gear to your camp. I would definitely do this.
There have been a number of zombie types introduced through movies and books. The classic, George A. Romero zombie is slow-moving, unthinking, and only a shot to the head will kill them. These are similar to the zombies in the T.V. show The Walking Dead. Then there are the zombies that can run. These quicker moving zombies are seen in movies like Zombieland and the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead. We won’t even talk about the unbelievably fast zombies seen in World War Z (the movie, not the book).
For zombie camp I would opt for the traditional, slow-moving, unthinking zombies. While shots to the body will slow them down, damage to their brain is the only sure-fire way of stopping them.
At Zombie Camp we have learned that the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) is no longer functioning. A cure will not be coming from them. We have also learned that the government no longer exists, and the military, as a whole, has been wiped out. We are on our own.
It is up to our campers and their out-of-box thinking to come up with a cure. I would teach them some fun science experiments and let them play with different ingredients. If one of them makes glowing Gak and writes a convincing report about why it will be a good cure, that is a camper that will earn some points for his/her team.
Creating a Bugout Bag
A bugout bag is a prepper staple. The idea is that if something catastrophic happens, and you need to leave your house right away without time to pack, you can just grab your bugout bag that will have all the essentials to keep you alive for a few days. Bugout bags contain things like water, water purification tablets, meal bars, can opener, some clothes, a fire starter, first aid, hygiene supplies, a weapon, flashlight, etc. There are many bugout bag lists on the internet if you need a list. There are even pre-made bugout bags, but we don’t want those for camp. Instead we want campers to learn what is important to pack and what isn’t. Taking your favorite book, movie and action figure is not essential, and it will weigh down your bag.
Creating a Boffer
A boffer is a simulated sword made from pvc pipe, a foam pool noodle and duct tape. These will safely simulate sword play and will be just as effective as Michonne’s katana sword at zombie camp.
Hand-to-Hand Combat (Zombitsu)
Self-Defense class is also something I would add to the camp. If you are surrounded by zombies and out of ammo, how will you survive? What if you only have a (fake) sword or (fake) machete?
Clearing a Building
Whether you are looking for a place to rest for the night or need to do some grocery shopping, your team needs to know how to clear a building the safest way possible.
Since there are no functioning hospitals in the zombie apocalypse, it is very important to know the basics of first aid.
Zombies won’t be the only threat during an apocalypse. Groups of bad guys will undoubtedly be traveling together. They will be modern-day pirates. How do you tell a friend from a foe? What do you do if you come across one of these rogue groups?
Special events are a must at any specialty camp. Here are a few I would consider doing.
Sending teams out to hunt for various items would be important. In our story, I would send teams out to search for:
- supplies needed for vaccine experiments
- extra ammo
- a person who can aid us, but is hiding
- food and water
- first aid supplies – someone got hurt
Of course, the items are worth points for the teams, as well as driving the story forward.
Oh no, a group has come into camp looking for help, but they look suspicious. Are they to be trusted? At first it seems so, but as the weapons come out and their friends flank us, we are sure they are not good guys. These are not slow moving walkers. This is not going to be easy.
This would be the last challenge of the week. Teams go one at a time. Points are based on how long it takes to clear all the zombies, how many survivors are left, if any bonus items are found, how well they work as a team, etc.
During this, another team will be given the challenge to find an item in a building filled with zombies. If there are four teams (which I recommend), then I would have two teams play the zombies. When time is up, all teams would rotate until they have all completed both zombie clearing tasks.
I would reach out to local theater groups to see if they would be willing to volunteer their time to play zombies. If I were unable to find a group to help out, I would just have the campers and staff play the zombies. Zombie players would, of course, have some ground rules:
- Zombies must all be in make-up and play the part.
- If hit in the head by 2 Nerf darts or a boffer, that zombie is dead for that round.
- If hit anywhere else, the zombie will pause for one second.
- Zombies cannot run. They can walk slowly or at a normal pace if they see something they want.
- Zombies do not think or react normally, so they will not dodge weapons.
- There will always be many more zombies than survivalists.
- Zombies will come from every direction
- In buildings, zombies may hide around corners but cannot open doors to hide.
There will be rules for the survivalists as well:
- If you run out of ammo, that is it. You can not pick up ammo from the ground. Hope you have a back-up weapon.
- If a zombie touches you, you are infected. There will be no biting.
- If infected you are dead for a 1 minute. After that you are on Team Zombie.
At a resident camp, each cabin group would have to take a 2 hour fire-watch shift sometime during the week, which means they would be up in the middle of the night to make sure no zombies (or other people) entered camp. Times are too dangerous to have everyone sleeping comfortably. Occasionally, a few zombies might try to enter camp to test our fire watch campers.
I might have survival classes (how to make fire, map reading, shelter building, etc.).
I would still have fun time at the pool or waterfront, crafts, etc. After all, you would want to hold on to a sense of normalcy in the apocalypse, if you can.
In my ebook 100 Outstanding Summer Camp Programs, one of the programs is called Zombie Raid. It’s a camp wide game that I would definitely play as well.
A Word on Safety
Safety is always a main concern for any camp. If projectiles from Nerf weapons are going to be launched I would make sure everyone is wearing eye protection (zombies, survivalists and referees). If there is going to be running in fear, I would clear the area of obstacles. You get what I mean. Think of every possible situation that may be a hazard, and do what you can to make it safe. That includes not importing real zombies.
We also want to keep our campers emotionally safe, so I would go easy on the jump scares, leave out the gore, and overall keep everything G rated – as much as you can with a zombie camp that is. Nobody wants to deal with a camper having nightmares. I would also make sure they understood that zombies are not real and this is all for fun.
If this all seems too much for a week-long camp, consider a Zombie Day. Just scale this whole thing down and use a little imagination.
If you just want to do one event, how about a Zombie Run?
Teams compete in a foot race or obstacle course that is infested with the undead. Campers run the race and avoid contact with the zombies that happen to be strung out along the course. Racers wear 3 football flags around their waist. This represents their health. Zombies try to grab the flags as the runners race by. The team that ends up with the most flags at the end is awarded the most points.
This is based on a (no longer existing) race called Run for Your Lives.
Current Zombie Camps
There are currently a few camps that run full zombie specialty camps. Here are two websites you can check out.
What Would You Add or Do Differently?
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