Scare for a Cure–and a Mentor

By Leah – October 3, 2013

For some, Halloween is just not complete without a good scare, and local nonprofit Scare for a Cure has managed to combine a frighteningly good time with a worth-while cause and youth education.

Austinites Norma Jean and Jarrett Crippen decided back in 2007 to put together a haunted house in their backyard in the hopes that they could channel their creative energy toward raising money for some targeted charities. They had no idea that, within six years, their labor of love would become a registered 501c(3) mobilizing over 1,000 volunteers logging 65,000 work hours and raising more than $100,000 for breast cancer research and other cancer-related charities.

But in addition to providing a rollicking good time, Scare for a Cure has a commitment to mentoring youth through their Haunted University, which offers classroom instruction and hands-on experience in set building, decoration, makeup techniques, fundraising, and technical production. Norma Jean Crippen, co-founder and marketing director for Scare for a Cure, explained that these young students are an important and integral part of the event’s success. “We target drama and theater students, who discover us primarily through word of mouth,” she explained. “It’s a rigorous program full of hard work. We teach them how to be production assistants first, and they do base foundation, scars, blood application, hair, and prep hands (this is very important and often gets overlooked in less polished productions).”

After mastering the basics, the young volunteers graduate to act as full-on assistants for Scare’s professional makeup artists. These are the artists who created the looks for the AFM article “Don’t be a Halloweenie” and this month’s Fit Finds selections: Sherrl Carpenter, Tomey McGowen, Crystal McGookey, and Jennifer L. Ball (Jenna Green, an additional makeup artist with Scare for a Cure, was unavailable for the AFM photo shoot because she was working on a movie in Oklahoma). In addition, the organization is very proud to announce that one of those mentored students, Tyler Parks, is the new assistant casting director. “Tyler is 17 years old and spent three years straight volunteering and is very involved with what we do,” said Crippen, proudly. “Our program graduates go out and make real money with these skills working as paid makeup artists. The professionals who volunteer for Scare for a Cure provide invaluable skill instruction, and we always have our fingers crossed that they’re in town and not away on set when we have our event.”

In addition to makeup classes, Scare for a Cure has sewing classes to teach costuming (“Right now, I have a complete costume department in my garage,” Crippen laughed). There are quite a few volunteers to costume for the hands-on experience that runs through most of the month of October. “We also do our own prosthetics and masks,” said Crippen. “The production has grown so much that this year, we’re asking Film Fleet—the organization that has donated a costume and makeup trailer for use each year—to provide two trailers. Each has six makeup chairs, so we’ll have a big crew working on getting our actors ready.”

All of this work and attention to detail pays off in the signature event, Fairy Tale Nightmare, which is an interactive scare-fest with two levels (regular and “red”—full-on blood intensive, is how Crippen described it: “You’ll come out drenched.”). Neither level, however, is appropriate for kids under 12 and Fairy Tale Nightmare usually sells out by the start of the second week. Two new and less intense options this October are available for the younger and more faint of heart: Murder at Ghost Town (an untimed, murder mystery theater) and Bone Yard (“your typical boo-scare maze,” Crippen explained). There’s something at Scare for a Cure for everyone who wants to find some spooky fun as well as a way to give to the Breast Cancer Resource Center. And, in the process, you can appreciate the time and talent that these volunteers have shared.

Interested in free tickets to this year’s Scare for a Cure? Check out the AFM Facebook page the week of October 9 to find out how you can win!


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