Scares That Care spooks for a cause

hbridges@vagazette.com

As Scares That Care Weekend enters its third year, founder Joe Ripple says he feels like a proud father.

Born from a simple, albeit unconventional, idea for a charity, the horror convention succeeded in its goal last year of distributing $10,000 each to three families in need. This year, hotel rooms and vendor spaces for the convention have already sold out.

"We're starting to experience a growth spurt, " Ripple said. One that will not only benefit chosen families in need, he said, but may also result in the additional income to help more families.

Scares That Care Weekend returns to the DoubleTree by Hilton this weekend, for a time of panels, celebrity meet-and-greets, costume contests and, as always, giving.

Ripple founded Scares That Care!, now a nonprofit organization, in 2006.

While working for a police department, Ripple said his partner's young daughter developed an inoperable brain tumor and passed away. At the time, Ripple served as head of security for a horror convention and witnessed the kindness of those in attendance.

"And Scares That Care! was born," Ripple said.

The charity selects three families each year: a woman fighting breast cancer, a child with a severe or terminal illness and a child suffering from severe burns. And this year, for the first time, all three families will attend the convention, Ripple said.

As much a difference as money can make, Ripple thinks the impact comes from something more.

"It's the fact that people care enough to want to help, really it strikes a nerve," he said.

This year's celebrity guests include Bob Gunton, whose roles include the warden in "The Shawshank Redemption," and Mitch Pileggi of "The X-Files," as well as RJ Haddy and Roy Wooley from Syfy's "Face Off." Guests also have opportunity to meet Danny Lloyd, known for his role as Danny Torrance in "The Shining," and two actors who played Cobra Kai members in "The Karate Kid."

The weekend's events include author readings, seminars and demonstrations, a film festival, "Scaryoke" and, new this year, a 5K race on Friday. Despite the weekend's scary theme, the convention aims to be kid friendly, with a kid's zombie hunt and trick-or-treat parade.

For all its growth, Scares That Care will never stray from its original mission. Ripple even said he hopes to change the name of event to "Scares That Care Weekend Charity Event."

"It's really just trying to drive the point home that it is a full-fledged charity event," Ripple said.

Ripple has high hopes for the charity's future.

"My goal when I started the charity was to help three families across the country each year," he said. "We've reached that."

He measures continued success in increasing the number of families helped each year, but he also finds success in Scares That Cares' ability to reach beyond its expected audience.

Ripple said Scares That Care is beginning to reach people who, though they may not like the horror genre, like what the charity stands for and the way it operates.

"I think that's the true aspect of a successful organization," he said.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Scares That Care

When: July 22-24

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton Williamsburg, 50 Kingsmill Road

Tickets: $40/weekend pass, $25/day pass

To see a full schedule of events and purchase tickets, visit scaresthatcareweekend.com. Call 855-666-2275 for more information.

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