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May 20, 2014

Zombies to swarm Peru, for a good cause

Annual event meant to scare up attention for celiac disease

PERU – A zombie apocalypse is coming to Peru. Seriously.

On Saturday, hundreds of zombies (read: people decked out in prosthetic limbs and fake blood and gore with arms stretched out) will lumber through the streets of Peru.

Got your attention? Good, says Jason Gornto, the choir teacher at Peru High School. That’s the point.

The theatrical event is meant to grab your attention, and then raise your awareness about celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disease that’s estimated to affect one out of every 133 Americans.

The disease damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who suffer from it must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet, or suffer from symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, infertility and depression.

That’s something Gornto knows about firsthand. His 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with the disease when she was a child.

Gornto’s daughter is lucky. It’s estimated that 83 percent of Americans who have celiac disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.

That’s the reason he and his wife, Denise, started the Zombie Walk for Celiac Disease Awareness four years ago in Peru.

By putting on a spectacle, Gornto, who got the idea from watching a YouTube video of a zombie walk in London, said he hopes people pay attention and learn something about a disease they may have and not even know it.

Plus, it’s fun.

“We stagger through downtown. It kind of looks like a zombie apocalypse,” he said with a laugh. “It’s pretty entertaining to see the reaction of people driving through town who have no idea what’s going on.”

Now that the event is in its fourth year, most people in Peru know about it. Gornto said people lined the streets to watch the more than 200 people who participated last year.

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