By BEN FRENTZEL
Ben Gakinya had a classic idea – a haunted house for the local children. But this year, that simple concept grew into something unique.
Moberly Area Community College teamed up with Parkade Center for a spooky fundraiser Friday, Oct. 29. Toiletries and cash were accepted as donations to benefit Coyote Hill Children’s Home.
Coyote Hill is made up of three separate homes, each with its own house parents. Ben Johnson, a parent of the Zimmer Home, brought a group of children to take part in the festivities.
“We do all kinds of stuff like this,” he said. “We go to Mizzou football games when tickets are donated to us.”
Johnson was happy Coyote Hill’s children could experience the event.
“Kids at Coyote Hill are very blessed,” he said.
Columbia’s Finest Child Development Center arrived with four vans of children for the event. Executive Director Julean Evans said it was important for children to get to experience this kind of event.
Students from the college and volunteers from Phi Theta Kappa spent most of the day decorating and transforming part of Parkade Center into a haunted house. Fake spider webs, eerie music and strobe lights came standard, but before the event, Gakinya beamed about a few special attractions.
“They’re going to have a little walkway like a haunted house,” he said. He also said there would be bowls of “eyeballs” and “brains” for the kids to touch – all really just disguised food items, of course.
Local artist Chris Talley also played a part in the event. His series of paintings, “Horror Veggies,” lined the walls of the first floor of the center. After the children finished the haunted house section, Talley, dressed as a zombie, explained the story behind each painting as the children viewed them.
“It’s one of those things where people love it or hate it,” Gakinya chuckled. “But they talk about it.”
The paintings were inspired by Talley’s imagination and experimentation with different artistic mediums like acrylic paint, oil pastels, crayon and pen ink. Where blood could have been, vegetable and fruit juices flowed.
“The creepiness of the pictures was a good fit,” Talley said.
Talley said he has plans for more paintings.
“I want to have at least 13 different series with 13 paintings in each,” he said. “They’re all going to weave together into a horrific story.”
The businesses of Parkade Center participated in the activities too, each acting as a a trick-or-treating pit stop for the children.
“It’s something safe and enjoyable,” said Michelle Blackston, manager of Harmony’s Treasure Box. She and her employees gave little Halloween books to the kids as they passed, while other businesses handed candy.
Gakinya was excited for how the event could evolve in the future.
“Next year, I’d love to make this whole place a haunted house, all dark,” he said.
Gakinya said he hopes events like this will stir up some community atmosphere at Parkade Center.
“It’d be nice to have that social atmosphere,” he said. “It takes enthusiasm and volunteers.”