Charity’s haunted house event without a home

·4 min read

Volunteers with Big Brothers, Big Sisters Brandon are worried that the organization’s annual haunted house event could be a no-go this year if they don’t find a place to hold it soon.

Sherri Grieve, who has volunteered with the organization, which provides mentoring relationships to children and youth, said she’s not sure why it’s been so hard to secure a place to host this year’s spooky fundraiser.

“This year seems to be the hardest year to be able to find a place,” said Grieve, who sits on the board of directors for Big Brothers, Big Sisters Brandon (BBBS). “Usually we have a place solidified by mid- to late August, and then we’re able to start building over the long weekend in September.”

Kirby Sarasas, secretary for BBBS, said that if her organization’s event doesn’t run this year either, there will be a big gap in Halloween festivities that Brandonites will sorely miss.

On Aug. 23, Amber and Brian Sutherland, owners of Grim Acres, a beloved Westman Halloween annual event located on Highway 1A near Kemnay, announced their event would not be running this year and would be closing permanently.

“Since 2006, we’ve hosted a haunted house or a haunted forest fundraiser,” Sarasas said, noting that the group did not host one in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is one of our biggest fundraisers, so we want to be sure that we can go ahead.”

The volunteers, including children and youth involved with BBBS, will also be severely disappointed if the event doesn’t happen this year, Grieve said, adding it’s something they look forward to all year long.

“I know that a lot of our ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ partner up together to come out to the event … and they use this as an opportunity to help bond with each other and meet other bigs and little as well, and do it as a group event.”

It’s also a great way for youth to get some good volunteer experience under their belts, Sarasas added.

“The kids that get to work it are quite often younger teens, so this might be their first real experience with this kind of volunteerism, and they treat it like it’s their job. They come in and they’re very proud of the fact that they had to go to work,” she explained.

“In turn, any kids that do participate in that way, we are then able to give them references for when they get a little bit older and they’re ready to go into the workforce.”

When it comes to what kind of space is needed for the event, Sarasas said the group has moved away from hosting it outside due to unpredictable fall weather. For six years, the event was hosted at the Turtle Crossing campground in Brandon.

The ideal location would be at least 5,000 square feet and available from now until the second week of November. Ample parking space is also necessary, Sarasas said.

“The space that we use doesn’t have to be pretty, because we’re going to add our own stuff to it and our own lighting, so it doesn’t have to be a finished space.”

Volunteers can create their own rooms with temporary walls that are stored in a trailer.

“We move these walls in and out and we can create the space we need, depending on what our volunteers are thinking of putting in each room. We also have acquired many, many tubs of costumes, Halloween props … and other things we can use to create the space that we want to make that year,” Sarasas explained.

On top of the community and volunteers missing out on some spooky Halloween fun, Sarasas said BBBS will miss out on much-needed funding if the event can’t get off the ground this year.

“We need to do fundraising to keep our local programs going. We need to find a space.”

Grieve agreed, saying the event benefits the community, mentors and mentees. She encourages anyone who has a space available, or knows of someone else who might, to get in touch with the organization.

“The contribution it would be to the community would be profound.”

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun