Good scare, good cause at this year’s Halloween fright-fest

This coming Halloween weekend will feature some good scares for a good cause.

For the 11th consecutive year, LaNetta and Kevin Leger will stage their Nightmare on Kent Street Haunted House. And each year it makes more of an impact on the community.

The Legers began the haunt as a way to give their Chandler community some excitement and a safe place for kids on Halloween.  As the event’s popularity grew, the Legers’ ambitions increased as well.

Kevin, who works for Intel, heard Henry Salinas speak to employees at the company in 2004. Salinas is the founder of ICAN, a group which provides guidance and activities for the youth of Chandler.

Coming away from the session impressed with Salinas and his efforts, Kevin gave birth to an idea the very same day. Instead of charging for admission, the haunted house would accept donations and use them to help ICAN.

“That was the first time Kevin had heard of the ICAN program. He was just so impressed and overwhelmed by Henry Salinas’ story about how he started ICAN that he knew this was the agency for us,” LaNetta said. “This was who we were going to help.

“(Kevin) came home and said ‘I found this great organization, helping disadvantaged youth in Chandler. We won’t charge people, but let’s go ahead and take donations and give it to the agency.’ We’ve been involved with them ever since.”

Along with area residents, youth from ICAN now help with the haunt. They help build, act and serve as guides.

“It’s just been amazing to watch them grow up or even improve communication skills. They’re gaining all these incredible skills and becoming really neat individuals and having a great time in the process,” LaNetta said.

“For my husband and I, it’s been a great experience getting to know these kids and being able to help them grow and improve, and kind of help them come out of their shells a little bit and work together. It’s been really exciting.”

While having fun, LaNetta said, the kids are also learning to become leaders.

“The kids coming to help out are learning a lot of skills for their personal lives. Some of them that were very shy and insecure started becoming tour guides and learned how to interact with people,” she said.

“Some of these kids now are guest speakers for ICAN. It’s amazing to watch them grow up, doing other projects and really blossoming doing it.”

Last year the haunted house raised $3,500. “This year they decided to raise the bar and go for $4,000,” LaNetta said.

The haunt, LaNetta said, provides fun for all.

“It’s great. Everybody gets their scares. And for those who are a little too timid to go through the full part of the haunted house, we have a separate seating area by a fire pit where families can come in and for the kids that are too scared to go through the haunt. There’s entertainment everywhere. It’s an evening for the entire family.”

The haunt will take place Oct. 25-31. Nightmare on Kent Street will host a special event for the special-needs community on Oct. 24.

To keep things frightening, the haunt has a different twist every year.

“We try to change it up every year. We have new scenes or we improve on the ones we had last year. One of the big things we’re doing this year is our black light room,” LaNetta said. “We’ve decided to go 3-D. Kids can have the opportunity to buy or use 3-D glasses to go through the black light room. We’re pretty excited about that piece.”

The haunted house is at 6402 W. Chandler Drive and will be open from 6:30-10 p.m.

LaNetta said the haunted house is the best of both worlds.

“You can have a good time and still give back to the community,” she said.

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