Kâté Braydon photo/Telegraph-Journal

A Fright Night for a Good Cause

by Ryan Melanson - Friday, October 25, 2013

This article is courtesy of Telegraph Journal

SAINT JOHN - The halls and classrooms of Saint John High School are set to be injected with terror this weekend.

The school is gearing up for an annual haunted house that promises to scare the wits out of those brave enough to attend, while providing support for a much less sinister cause.

The Haunted Motel, in support of the Empty Stocking Fund, opens Friday at 6:30 p.m. running until 8:30 p.m., with the same hours on Saturday.

Grade 12 student Patricia Chareka, president of the Student Representative Council that spearheads the spooky event, said it's something students always look forward to, and a team of dedicated volunteers has been hard at work all month getting things planned.

"Everybody likes to dress up, get involved and almost get that experience of being in a scary movie, being made up like zombies and all that. The students get really excited and we always have a great turnout."

Chareka said some specific aspects will be kept secret by the committee until being unveiled to terrified tour groups Friday night, but the public can expect dark, abandoned motel rooms, haunted by the corpses of maids and front-desk workers of the past.

Classic haunted house staples will also be included, said SRC Advisor Angela Cameron.

"I hate to say it, but we'll see some mutilated bodies, people chained up, screaming, people popping out, it'll be frightening."

The scares are meant for those mature enough to handle them, but the little ones can also take part, with student volunteers manning the Ghoul's School, where children are encouraged to wear their costumes and participate in activities like Halloween cookie decorating.

A short promotional video has also popped up on Youtube, directed by student and aspiring filmmaker Samuel Landry, which depicts two young teens staying overnight in a creepy motel, where unexplained, horrifying events begin occurring.

The price of $5 or $3 for students gets you in the door for the Haunted Motel, but with the event serving as a fundraiser for the Empty Stocking Fund, celebrating its 101st year on Nov. 23, the dollars will also go towards needy children and families in the community.

Saint John High has a relationship with the fund that goes back three decades, but recent years have seen contributions grow larger, with the Haunted House event always playing a big role.

Chareka said students get motivated by knowing the support goes directly to those in the community who need extra help at Christmas time.

"There's a lot of students, even here, and at other schools, that we might not realize are a little less fortunate at home. It's just the idea of being able to give back, and sometimes to people that we see on an everyday basis, that's probably our biggest motivator."

Jill Whitaker, co-ordinator of the Empty Stocking Fund at Brunswick News, said Saint John High contributed over $4,000 in 2012 through fundraising, on top of the school donating the use of its auditorium for the fund's telethon and the school's choir always giving a spirited performance.

She said seeing students put in hours of energy and work for an event that provides help to other kids in the community is exactly the spirit of the Empty Stocking Fund, which is sponsored by the Telegraph-Journal.

"That's the message they're putting out there. They're our next generation of givers, and they're reaching out and doing something for their community with what they have to offer."

While recognizing most area schools have a specific charity they focus on, Chareka said she'd like the example set by Saint John High to challenge other local schools to increase their own support for the Empty Stocking Fund, maybe resulting in an even larger final amount than the impressive $156,000 raised in 2012.

An event listing page found at www.emptystockingfund.ca provides space for any organization holding an event in support of the fund to provide details and get the word out.