HOUSTON, October 17, 2013 — Last spring this reporter covered a charity event held by The Houston Zombie Walk (HZW), a nonprofit organization founded by Darren Tompkins. Its popularity keeps increasing both on a local level in Houston, recently being voted as the top Halloween attraction by the Houston Press, and also on an international level as well. One of the several reasons why its attractiveness has developed is because of the energy and entertainment at the events themselves, and the variety of charities the events support.
“The various charities keep our audience diversified,” says Tompkins. “This year we have focused on Houston Children’s Charity, Houston Humane Society, and Dove Key Ranch Wildlife Rehabilitation. It’s a really good opportunity for people to get together and have fun in a unique way, while helping children and animals in need. It’s also an opportunity to show a creative side.
“The creativity shows up from the people and what they bring to the table. It’s more than just zombies or horror icons, people really get imaginative. Someone showed up as Gizmo the Gremlin, we’ve had Ghostbusters, Storm Troopers, Captain Crunch, the dead NFL replacement referees, and we always have dead celebrities; it’s very zany and entertaining each time to see what people will come up with,” added Tompkins.
Tompkins started HZW after volunteering at numerous charitable events.
“I volunteered at other walks and they were very loosely organized and just held once a year, I liked that they helped charity but I really wasn’t that impressed and felt like more could be done. The idea of zombies and Halloween is very popular so I really thought we could make a go at this, and bring the popularity of those genres to a nonprofit to support noble causes.”
A true philanthropist, Darren Tompkins has always been a provider.
“It’s in my blood; my mom was a social worker, her mom was a volunteer at Salvation Army, as well has her mom after that; but you aren’t going to see this guy ringing a bell outside of Macy’s so this seems like a better fit. It’s very exciting to see how our popularity has grown. Recently Danny Trejo even took some pictures with our merchandise along with Michele Rodriguez and Edward James Olmos, who shook my hand and and said he appreciated everything I was doing.
“I try to live my life like the poem by Edward Rowland, “Opportunity.” Crazy, but that poem was sitting on my barracks room floor when I reported for duty, day one in Korea for the Army. I kept it for a while then I memorized it.”
Tompkins served in the U.S. Army from 1992-2005. He was ranked E1-E4 from 92-97 in the Military Police, deployments to Korea, Cuba and the Balkans, E4 to (almost) E-6 in Civil Affairs (abn) 98-02.
“I declined the E6 promotion to take the ROTC scholarship,” said Tompkins. “I did ROTC at the University of South Carolina from 02-03, Commission in Aviation upon graduating where I was the Executive Officer in a Blackhawk unit. All of my active duty time was humanitarian, peacekeeping, riot control, and combat; the biggest damned oxymoron. I resigned my commission in 2005 to start my oil and gas career.”
Parallel to charity running in Tompkins’ family is the military as well.
“Grandfather Tompkins was a Bronze Star recipient for the Battle of the Bulge; he was an inspiration for me when I was younger, along with several people including my mom and Henry Rollins’ spoken word performances. Henry Rollins still inspires me, but what do you want from an old punk? I am also a fan of Douglas Adams, his books showed me how small the earth is and how petty most things are.”
Like any business, there are obstacles to overcome. Many people don’t realize the time, effort, and money it takes to run a nonprofit organization.
“The biggest obstacle for HZW has been getting sponsors interested in us. We have a huge problem in that because we get a lot of media attention, people think we are this big financially stable company; it’s the exact opposite, my day job funds around 95% of what we do.”
From zombies to charity, patriot to philanthropist, Darren Tompkins continues to make a difference with no clear ending to his motivation in site.
“I started HZW for two reasons; it’s fun and I want to make a difference. If it stops being these things then I will close up shop forever.”
Saturday, October 19, HZW will be hosting a Halloween party at Jones Plaza in Houston, Texas. Click here for tickets.
Carter Lee is an author, professional speaker, show host, manager of models, and is a professional wrestler. To keep up with all of Carter’s work visit his official Fan Page.
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