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Zombie walk shambling to Bell Tower this Friday

Meet Me at the Bell Tower getting into Halloween spirit

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Michael Champagne (pictured in a file photo from 2012), one of the founders of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities and its weekly Meet Me at the Bell Tower meetings, says the Bell Tower Zombie Walk is scheduled to take place Oct. 25 at 6 p.m.

PHOTO BY MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Michael Champagne (pictured in a file photo from 2012), one of the founders of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities and its weekly Meet Me at the Bell Tower meetings, says the Bell Tower Zombie Walk is scheduled to take place Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. Photo Store Photo Store

The undead will rise again.

The 2013 Winnipeg Zombie Walk may have been cancelled, but some North End youths are still spreading corpse cheer.

The Bell Tower Zombie Walk — Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. — is part of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities’ (AYO!) weekly Meet Me at the Bell Tower event, an anti-violence and community building movement that meets every Friday at 6 p.m. at Selkirk Avenue and Powers Street.

"The intention is to celebrate the Halloween spirit," says Michael Champagne, 26, one of the originators of the Bell Tower meetings.

"It was something recommended by the youth at the Bell Tower. One of the important things we want people to know about Meet Me at the Bell Tower is that it’s child- and youth-directed. The youth expressed sadness over the Winnipeg Zombie Walk being cancelled, and so they decided ‘Why don’t we just take it upon ourselves to organize one for our own neighbourhood?’"

That do-it-yourself attitude is what Meet Me at the Bell Tower is all about. The event started in November 2011 as a youth-led response to the violence that was happening in the North End neighbourhood.

"Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO!) and community residents got together and began rallying on a weekly basis," Champagne says. "Now it’s turned into a community celebration and also an opportunity to engage the broader community with peacebuilding and community-building initiatives."

Champagne, who grew up in the neighbourhood and is of Cree heritage, got involved in community organizing at the age of 10, volunteering as peer tutor and also with after-school programs and student council.

He and a few North End friends formed AYO! in March of 2010.

"A group of young people I had known and worked with in the community for a long time, we were able to get together outside of formal organizations and form AYO!" Champagne says. "We called it a youth movement. We’re all just volunteers trying to make our neighbourhood better."

In addition to the Zombie Walk, Meet Me at the Bell Tower will celebrate its two year anniversary on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. The event — at the bell tower of course — will include a Bell Tower Museum, a project chronicling the movement’s successes over the last couple years.

To keep up to date with Meet Me at the Bell Tower and AYO!, go to www.ayomovement.wordpress.com

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