Dozens participate in Farmington's inaugural Zombie Run to help ECHO Inc.

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Wearing makeup resembling rotting flesh, Erin Gockel and Melissa Vigil were ready to run in ECHO Inc.'s Zombie Run at Berg Park.

The pair were among a handful of runners who dressed the part on Oct. 9.

This was the first time ECHO – Economic Council Helping Others Inc. – held a 5K, 10K and fun run to raise funds for its food and emergency assistance programs and its operations.

"I cannot say enough positive things about them. I think they go above and beyond, so anything that they do – we want to support them as they give back to the community," said Gockel, who has been volunteering at the non-profit organization for years.

"Good luck everybody," ECHO CEO Nanette Pinckney said. "Run your heart out, don't get caught by any zombies out there."

Erin Gockel, left, and Melissa Vigil dressed as zombies to participate in ECHO Inc.'s Zombie Run on Oct. 9 at Berg Park in Farmington.

The Zombie Run developed after ECHO cancelled the Blue Jeans Ball, an annual fundraising event, because of restrictions on social gatherings due to COVID-19, Pinckney said in an interview.

"So, we thought an outside event would be a little bit better and maybe not as hard on people trying to follow all the CDC rules and COVID protocols," she said.

ECHO is a "community action agency" that administers several programs and offers services such as a food bank, hygiene kits distributions, and financial assistance to pay rent, utilities or funeral expenses.

They also operate a preschool in Aztec and a warehouse in Albuquerque that serves seniors with free food.

Participants run the route of ECHO Inc.'s Zombie Run on Oct. 9 at Berg Park in Farmington.

Pinckney said the organization saw the demand for services and assistance rise during the pandemic, including a 60% increase in its food programs, and the demand for rent and utility payments has increased 800%.

"We worked hard and diligently to obtain as much CARES funding as we could to be able to help as many people as we could. It's starting to slow down now but we helped a lot of people during the pandemic," she said.

Resources such as federal coronavirus relief payments obtained from the state government and donations have sustained ECHO's work throughout the pandemic, she explained.

However, the organization's work continues and so does the need to raise funds, so proceeds from the Zombie Run will help with that, Pinckney said.

A Halloween decoration warns runners as they move through Berg Park during ECHO Inc.'s Zombie Run on Oct. 9 in Farmington.

There were 61 runners who participated in the 5K and 10K races and 12 participants in the fun run.

The route of the timed races proceeded throughout Berg Park and Animas Park.

Near the Riverside Nature Center in Animas Park stood Andrew Mangold, who was dressed as Michael Myers, the character from the "Halloween" movie series.

Mangold explained that he was there because his wife and daughter were running in the 10K, so he came out to "embarrass them."

His appearance there caused a pair of runners to approach with caution. One eventually picked up her speed because she didn't know what to expect.

Her friend paused slightly to ask Mangold if he was going to chase them. His response was no, then he started to clap and cheer as the group passed.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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