Most days when you walk into the gym at the Boys and Girls Club on Depot Street, better known as the Carver Center, you see kids playing basketball, jumping rope, and participating in all kinds of activities. However, on Friday, Oct. 31, even getting into the gym was a test of one’s mettle. Hellish sounds emanated from the entrance, a strange red glow shone from behind a pitch tarp, the sharp tang of burnt oil and gas filled the nostrils of anyone daring enough to enter. One small child was heard to whimper, “I don’t want to go in!” Yes, all signs pointed to the annual Halloween party the Carver Center holds; complete with a wonderful haunted house that absolutely terrifies the participating youth.
“We’ve been doing this for 15 years,” said Jeannie Shelton, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Knox County. “Ever since we had the Saturday morning program. The kids look forward to it every year.”
This landmark annual event, much like many of the activities, and indeed much of the day-to-day operation of the center, counts on the aid of students from Knox College. In this case, the brothers of Fiji, along with some aid from the Women of Influence local, were immeasurably important in getting the whole to-do off the ground.
“[Sophomore Jordan] Lanfair and [junior Kevin] Quirk had the idea originally,” said chapter president senior Brian Humpherys. “They brought it up at a meeting as a possible philanthropy project for us, and it turned out to be one of our more exciting projects.”
Tina Aquino, one of the representatives for WOI, spoke in similar terms.
“Jordan approached us,” she said. “We thought it could be fun, and it’s always good to give back to the community.”
Fiji and Women of Influence, often involve themselves with bridging the gap between Knox and Galesburg, and this was an excellent opportunity to spread good will for the college. Mostly the students took roles within the maze of horror itself, ranging from people making noise behind a screen, to scary faces in ninja masks peeking up over a wall. Junior Chandler Harris was a chainsaw-wielding maniac that chased the kids down the final stretch of hallway to the exit, as they screamed the whole way.
“As soon as I saw the chainsaw when we were setting up,” said Harris, “I put my eye on it. It was mine. It was what (the kids) came for, and I was willing to oblige.”
The reviews from those that made it through were almost all positive and rang of the sincerity and happiness one can only get from being scared out of one’s wits.
“It was awesome,” said J-Von Watkins. “It was really scary, especially at the end. I almost had a heart attack.”
“I had to herd all the boys in front of me,” said ten-year-old Sharon Cannen.
Though young Mr. Watkins and Miss Cannen were good examples of what most kids felt, one young girl, too broken up to even give her name, was able to get out, “It was horrible. The chainsaw man was terrible.”
She was one of a few who were in such a “state,” as Mrs. Shelton put it.
“This is actually the first year in awhile we’ve had kids crying like that,” she said.
Still, as she saw it, it was good for the kids.
“Thank you for scaring my babies,” she was heard to tell the workers with a laugh. “But really, though,” she continued, “I want to thank them, and hope they continue to help and support us in the future.”
“Fiji loves kids,” said Lanfair, driving force behind the Greek helping hand. “I love these kids, and we wanted to show them a great time.” He grinned then, saying, “We’re just here to scare these young boys.”
Senior Aaron Barnett of Beta Theta Pi was there as well, volunteering and terrifying kids at the same time.
“I was one of the scary ninjas,” he said. “I volunteered to do this, and it was a blast. I thought it was much better than it could have been (without our help).”