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CHARLESTON -- Erik Eckberg said he and some of his fellow Eastern Illinois University students were happy to be covered in blood and try to catch kids who ran to get away from them.

They were zombies for a good cause.

Eckberg and some other members of the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity were among the more than 100 EIU students who volunteered Saturday during the "Zombie Obstacle Course Challenge."

Eastern's Student Community Services office organized the event at the Coles County Fairgrounds as a fundraiser for the local Children's Advocacy Center. Eckberg said the students welcomed the chance to help the center, which helps law enforcement interview children and investigate abuse cases.

"Those kids have been going through a lot," he said. "We thought we'd take the opportunity to help out."

The admission fee allowed kids and their families to try to get through a variety of obstacles, such as tossing balls into buckets and crawling through a straw bale maze while blindfolded.

The last obstacle was a search in a wading pool full of plastic balls to find the key to "Zombie Land," where the college student zombies were waiting to give chase.

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For those wanting something scarier, there was also a "dark maze" in one of the fairgrounds' buildings, where the idea was to get through without any lighting to help.

Anne Pearce, a member of the group that helped organize the event, said she came up with the idea for the zombie theme because of the popularity of TV shows such as "The Walking Dead."

She's also a retired Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigator and said the "iffy" status of state funding meant an organization such as the Children's Advocacy Center could use the help.

"There's a great need for a safe place for children to be interviewed," Pearce said.

Robyn Carr, a family advocate with the center, attended the event and said the proceeds will help with the organization's general operating expenses.

"We're always excited when the community wants to help the center," she said.

Rachel Fisher, the EIU Student Community Service Office director, said about 20 people from the community helped organize the activities and there are plans to make it an annual event.

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Contact Fopay at dfopay@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6858.

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Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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