The idea behind the weekend-long convention, which made its Williamsburg debut last summer, is to “unite fans of all things spooky in order to give to those in need,” said Joe Ripple, the founder of Scares that Care.
Ripple, a retired police detective, was motivated to find a way to raise money for families experiencing medical hardship after witnessing firsthand the financial and emotional struggle his partner faced when his 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
The original goal of the organization was to raise enough money to give $10,000 to the family of one child with a terminal illness each year. Since then the focus has expanded to include the family of one child who has suffered severe burns and the family of one mother diagnosed with breast cancer each year, both of which also receive $10,000.
The horror angle arose out of Ripple’s own love of the genre and experience working security at horror conventions.
This year’s convention, which will run from July 24 through 26, will include the return of many popular aspects from last year’s event as well as some new additions.
As in the past, there will be seminars from speakers in the horror movie industry, scary make-up demonstrations, author readings, a silent auction stocked with horror movie memorabilia, and a costume contest.
There will also be “scary-oke” (a spooky version of karaoke), a tattoo vendor on site, a kids’ trick-or-treat parade and numerous food and merchandise vendors.
New this year is a haunted house, provided by Red Vein Army, a Richmond-based haunted house company. There will also be a “Make-Up War” in which two make-up artists face off to see who can design the best scary make-up.
No horror convention would be complete without a few scary movie veterans in attendance, and this year guests can expect appearances by Piper Laurie, who played Carrie’s mom in “Carrie,” William Katt, who played Carrie’s prom date in “Carrie” and Kim Coates, who played Tig Trager in “Sons of Anarchy,” among others.
Last year’s convention attracted more than 3,000 people from places as distant as Washington state, and raised more than $38,000. Event organizers this year are hoping to top that total, and they report advanced ticket sales are already surpassing last year’s.
An undertaking of this size does not just come together overnight, and Scares that Care already has a full staff of 40 volunteers lined up to ensure things run smoothly throughout the weekend.
The organization has also reached out to Busch Gardens Williamsburg to borrow some of the props used at the park’s popular “Howl-o-Scream” event.
As for the target audience of this kind of convention, Ripple believes anyone who enjoys anything spooky will find something to love at this event. The weekend is billed as being family-friendly, with the caveat that parents should judge the ability of their own children to handle the spookier aspects.
“Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of horror, you can come out and know you are helping a family in need,” Ripple said.