By Timothy Chipp
NIAGARA FALLS — Most high school seniors give their time to soup kitchens or homeless shelters when school requires community service. But meeting requirements wasn’t good enough for Niagara Falls High School students Kali Lacey and Kyle Sortore.
No, when their government class informed them they needed to complete a certain number of hours of service in the community, they decided to organize their own haunted house – actually, a haunted trail – and open it up to the community.
“I was with my boyfriend walking around his back yard and we were talking about what we were going to do for Halloween,” Lacey said. “We came up with this idea.”
For a $3 admission fee, patrons can take a walk along their Fear Trail, located at 733 93rd St. She hosts the trail each Saturday this month, including tonight, from 6 to 10 p.m.
Every cent of the admission is donated directly to Community Missions of Niagara, the charity they chose to benefit.
And though the walk only takes about five minutes, Lacey said, don’t expect a cakewalk with little excitement. As a cosmetology student through the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services, she’s created some of the most gory, realistic characters in any of the area’s assortment of spooky attractions.
It’s a skill she’s proud of and wanted to showcase, especially the zombie makeup she creates for some of her actors – who are also donating their time to help the cause.
Proof of her work is available on the trail’s Facebook page, which features several photographs of her actors in various stages of makeup application.
“I’ve been into makeup and theatrics for a long time,” she said. “I’m really good with costume makeup ... the realistic zombie makeup. The wounds look incredibly real.”
While the trail is quietly building a fan base each Saturday, Lacey is hoping a Halloween night event can raise even more money for the mission. She’s calling it the Grand Blood Bath and it’s promising more scares, more actors and more fun at the same admission price.
Partnering with Community Missions of Niagara seemed like a no-brainer for the pair. But was it the same way for the organization? Public Relations Manager Katie Trombley said she was overwhelmed when she met with them and discussed the plans to hold the haunted trail to benefit the homeless shelter.
“Our mission statement is ‘Compassion in Action,’ and these kids just exemplify this,” she said. “This just showed me that young adults can have compassion for these situations. I don’t know many adults who are like this.”
Community Missions of Niagara has been serving the hungry and homeless in the county for 87 years. But in the last few years, its clientele has changed drastically.
Trombley said about 80 percent of the people the shelter now serves are those who are classified as working poor, people who have sometimes two or three jobs but simply don’t earn enough to make ends meet.
She also said the upcoming holiday season can cause even more problems for people who end up walking through the doors of the mission, because the added stress of needing to spend more and more money on Christmas gifts and Thanksgiving meals can pile on each other.
The money being raised by the Fear Trail is going to help ensure people get a chance to eat when they otherwise wouldn’t.
“(Kali) texts me every day updating me on her totals,” Trombley said. “Right now, she’s up to $252. Her goal is to reach $500, which would feed 100 people for a whole week. Just to put it into perspective, $100 feeds a full soup kitchen for an entire day.”
The haunted trail comes with a recommended age of 10-years-old and up, but Lacey said her actors are instructed not to scare any young children.
For presale tickets, call Lacey or Sortore at 248-4530.