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Frights for funding: teens offer scares so they can serve

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Isha Bains, left, and Nathan Salas of Interact are playing characters in a haunted movie theater/house opening on Friday through Monday.


Fear can take more work than one might expect. Six weeks of labor has created this year’s Haunted House by Madera Interact, which opens Friday and continues through Halloween night.

The Haunted House will offer scares 6:30-8:30 p.m. at 109 E. 6th St. Admission is $6 at the door or $5 via pre-sale tickets.

“Over the past two months, over 100 Interact youths have been helping to make this event,” explained Interact member Bijah Luhar. “We have nine rooms in our Haunted House and they are categorized” by movie. Each room highlights a different horror film from “Annabelle” (2014) to the “Scream” franchise (1996-2015).

“I started helping out this year. It’s my freshman year in high school,” said Interact member Isha Bains, who will perform in the “Annabelle” room. “This year’s theme is the haunted theater … And my role in the haunted house this year is to be scaring people by screaming in their face and being the one that always leads them out of the room.”

Though rooms may be setup, Interact members continue to rehearse their horrific roles before the first paying customer passes through.

“For the next week, they get to dress up and come down,” said Rotarian Jeff Fagan, who advises Madera Interact. “We run through the program over and over and over again (and) keep walking people through it, so they get a lot of practice. They love all that. They get to scare all their buddies.”

“It’s really amazing how long it took us,” said Bains. “We started in mid-September and we’re still here now and we help tear down. And it’s a really big commitment, but it’s really fun to do and you help all your peers. You know how to work with a team, and that’s one thing I feel really good about.”

Yet the Haunted House isn’t only for fun and fear. The fundraiser supports service to the local community and elsewhere in the world. Members help with events like Trees for Charity, river cleanups and “just about anything to make things better for their lives and improve the world they live in,” Fagan said. That includes an annual Spring Break trip by about a dozen Interact members to the “very southern tip of Baja Mexico. We go up into a part of the mountains there and just do service work for people who don’t have anything.”

Water in the arid area has mostly been contaminated by “heavy metals from mining that went on over the last 100 years,” he said. “There’s a lot of arsenic in the water and . just tons of nasty things in the water. So one of our primary things going down there was to take these water filters.”

Each filter costs about $150 each, and is given to a family there. “There’s about 12,000 families down there that need it, so it’s going to go on for years before they can meet all the need there.” In the past, playgrounds have been built and other aid offered.

“It’s just eye opening because these people have nothing,” Fagan said, “and if they’re sick they can’t go to school (or work and) … that affects them eating. It’s a very meager existence there. It’s nothing like we think of as Tijuana or Ensenada where it’s influenced a lot by the drug trade and all that. There’s none of that down there but the people are very simple people and very kind people.”

Madera Interact is open to youths from ages 15 to 18 regardless of what high school they attend, according to Fagan. “All we want is them to understand it’s to do service above self, which is the same thing Rotary does. Do something good for others and think of yourself in a secondary light for a little bit, and think about well they need the help more than I do right now.”

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