Scares That Care is an IRS approved 501 (c)(3) horror-themed charity that I donate my time and name to. We fight real monsters of childhood illness, cancer, and more by financially helping families experiencing these overwhelming hardships. Each case is unique. We provide money, toys, utilities, and other items to help sick children and their families. We do the same for women fighting breast cancer. And we also partner with actor Kane Hodder (the Friday the 13th series) to aid children who have suffered serious, life-altering burn injuries.
Our Board of Directors are all fans of the horror genre, and some of us also work within the industry. We consider ourselves to be Ambassadors of Horror, and thus, show the public that fans of the genre are not just black-clad weirdos fixated on serial killers or hanging out in the cemetery, smoking clove cigarettes and listening to Type O Negative and pretending to be fucking vampires. We are a completely volunteer organization. None of our staff, our board members, our directors, or our organizers draw a salary, and no paychecks are issued to them. This allows us to maximize the donations of our supporters, and give it directly to the families who need our help.
In addition to year-long donations from our supporters in the general public, we organize a number of fundraising efforts, including the annual Scares That Care Weekend Charity Event. You can read Cemetery Dance contributor Mark Sieber’s take on it here.
Ostensibly, this is a horror convention—but I can say with some pride that it’s unlike any other horror convention you’ll ever attend. Most horror conventions only focus on one particular aspect of the genre—movies or literature or comic books. The Scares That Care Weekend Charity Event focuses on the entire genre. Movie and television celebrities, filmmakers, authors, publishers, haunt enthusiasts, comic book creators, paranormal investigators, make-up and special effects artists, cosplayers, and much more—all gathered together under the same roof for a weekend. And it works great every year. Not only does it raise money for the charity—it helps the genre grow and expand. I see it happen every year. I hear the testimonials from fans who have attended. They’ve never read a book in their life, and they’ve come only to get Ken Foree to sign their Dawn of the Dead poster, and by the end of the weekend, they’re buying books from Armand Rosamilia. Or they don’t watch many movies or television programs, preferring instead to read, and by the end of the weekend, they’re posing for a picture with William Forsythe.
We do good for the families we help, but we also do good for the genre.
If this week’s column is beginning to sound like a public service announcement, well, I guess it is. However, that’s necessary. Disclaimer: I serve on the Board for the Scares That Care Weekend Charity Event. Specifically, I book the authors who appear at the convention, make sure they’ve got a place to sign books and take photos with fans, oversee all of the author programming (readings, signings, panel discussions), and more. Next year, I’ll be doing that, plus the same thing for podcasters, as we add a podcasting programming track. And when I’m not doing those things at the convention, I’m helping out where needed—judging the costume contest or helping out in the autograph room or handing out bottles of water to people stuck behind vendor tables or just working the crowd and making sure everyone is feeling welcome, feeling safe, and having a good time.
The event runs Thursday night through Sunday afternoon. I average four hours of sleep per night during that time. It is exhausting. But I love it. I love helping the families. I love hamming it up for our attendees. And I especially love the people I work with. I’ve known some of the Scares That Care team for nearly twenty years now. We’ve worked other conventions together. These people are my dear, dear friends. CEO and founder Joe Ripple, Karen Novak, Andrew—I’ve known these folks most of my professional career. We’ve laughed together, cried together, fought in the trenches together. We’ve seen each other through some pretty deep lows and lifted each other to some unimaginable heights.
So yeah, it’s tiring—and as time now speeds up again, and we pick up where we left off in last week’s column, as John Urbancik and I arrived at the third annual Scares That Care Weekend Charity Event looking disheveled and dirty and absolutely exhausted—I didn’t care. I was happy to be there. Happy to see my friends. And ready to go to work.
In addition to my regular duties that weekend, I was also supposed to perform the wedding ceremony of author Bryan Smith and his fiancée Jennifer. The wedding was to take place Saturday. We arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia (where both the convention and the wedding were taking place) on Thursday. On Thursday night, I realized that the speech I’d written for the wedding was somewhere between Chattanooga and Biloxi…
To be continued…
Author’s Note: To learn more about Scares That Care, or to donate, please visit http://scaresthatcare.org/
Brian Keene writes novels, comic books, short fiction, and occasional journalism for money. He is the author of over forty books, including the recently releasedPressure and The Complex. The father of two sons, Keene lives in rural Pennsylvania.