SIX NATIONS – Keely’s Haunted Trail, one of the most well-known Halloween attractions on Six Nations has been offering scares and fun for families in the area for five years during the season of trick-or-treating.
Each year the trail seems to grow in size, design and the number of attendants. But there is much more than meets the eye behind the scenes of this spooky and interactive trail ride.
Both Scott Hill and Tammy Point put together a lot of thoughtfulness and care into carrying on the trail.
“This year is our fifth year running, and it’s crazy because it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long,” said Point.
After losing their daughter Keely in 2011, the two decided to fundraise to help pay off medical bills and the Ronald McDonald playroom built in her memory with the proceeds from the first and second trail and other small fundraisers in 2013 and 2014. The trail has since become their main annual event and the hard work shows in the festive decorations and costumes which now help chosen families with proceeds.
“We ultimately look for families that we can help, because our whole idea was after we pay off this Ronald McDonald House we want to help families, because of what we had been through with our daughter. We were in the hospital with her and she lived for 18 and a half months, but in those months we probably spent about five of them in the hospital.”
She explained that their daughter needed 24/7 care and had a lot of appointments, and with Point on maternity leave and Hill spending time away from his self-employment they did find hardships.
“Which left us with all of these bills but no money to pay for them kind of, so [our family] ended up having a big fundraiser and the community helped us a lot,” said Point. “So one of the things that we became grateful for was how the community helped us while we were going through that.”
With experiencing how tough life can become with piling bills and hospital visits, they chose to continue the trail to help offer funds to other families in need and began The Keely Louise Hill Foundation.
“After she passed we just thought, you know what, there’s so many families that go through this,” she said. “You know, when their child is sick the last place they want to be is worried about work or paying your bills so, our whole idea with the foundation was that any money that we fundraise we give it to families kind of specifically, but not limited to families with children that have a terminal illness or a poor diagnosis. When something is terminal you want to be by your child as much as you can because you don’t know how long they have or when the time will come.”
The money can go towards house payments, car payments, hydro bills, travelling expenses, meals and any other expenses that may come up to allow the family to focus on their loved one. Point explained that one year the money went to a girl with cancer, and another year the money went to a boy that needed a home renovation to accustom medical equipment. And the familial and communal support grew.
“Scott had originally come up with the idea and we kind of just ran it by our family in hopes that people would jump on board,” she said. “My family itself is pretty big on Halloween so there was a lot of people on board with it. So we just kind of started it not really knowing if we were gonna do it year after year but everybody had fun. We had a really good turnout for volunteers, so it just kind of worked out and everybody started looking forward to it year after year.”
The planning for the event usually takes place in September, with different scene managers being chosen to partake in creating a skit or scare along the trail and volunteers filling the forest and decorating.
Hill explained that the support in putting the event on from both sponsors and volunteers has continued to be outstanding.
“Just from the outpouring of help that we had when we were in the hospital is kind of where the idea for The Keely Louise Hill Foundation sprung from,” said Hill. “I think one of the big things for us is when you see a group of people come together. Our youngest volunteers were six and seven-year-old girls. Then we have a big group of high school students, and I think they’re just here for their 40 hours, but after the first night they’ll get dropped off at five o’clock and the attendance is great because everyone shows up.”
“And the big nights when everything is running there’s gotta be close to 70 people here, I know that one time I counted and there were close to 49 people at one of our meetings,” he said. “The trail only runs for five nights and the prep goes on for like a month and a half, like easily. If not even a little bit longer, almost three times a week.”
“It’s not just about kids from Six Nations though,” he said.
Hill said that he was caught off guard this year by a girl from outside of the community in Brantford that came to volunteer by herself, simply because she wanted to help. And amongst the students and youth that volunteer and learn work ethic, are also dedicated adults that simply want to help make the night special for youth and families that come to experience one of the five nights.
“So basically this is not possible at all without our volunteers from the community, and majority of them are from the community,” said Point. “Like it wouldn’t even happen.”
The first night for the trail attracted more than 350 guests, and both Point and Hill hope to accommodate everyone without having to turn away visitors at the end of the night by making efficiency of the trail a key component in this year’s edition.
“Last year we thought we had a lot in our first weekend, but we pretty much doubled it this year,” she said.
Although the ride wait might be a bit lengthy, with Halloween themed snacks to the left, a picture booth for memories to the right and A Nightmare Before Christmas playing in the back, the time goes by quickly and offers an evening of memories and honouring a memorial.
“It is a legacy and it will never not be about her [Keely],” said Point. “It helps us too even just in our healing and even still it makes it seem like she’s still with us a bit because her name is attached to it.”
Entry is $10 no matter the age, and you can check out this spooky trail on Friday, October 27, Saturday, October 28 and Monday October 30th (devils night).