The Impact of Scares That Care
Many people know Scares That Care is a horror convention in Williamsburg, Virginia; but Scares That Care is also an IRS approved 501(c)(3) charity that brings together members of the horror community from film, TV, writing, and fandom to help families in need. As of this writing, they have raised over $300,000 for organizations and families, helping children affected by illness, burn survivors, and women fighting breast cancer. Each beneficiary receives $10,000 from events and direct donations. Scares That Care is an all-volunteer organization with no salaries or paychecks issued to any staff involved in the charity.
For years now, the Scares charity weekends have built a reputation for being an exceptional experience among writers, agents, talent, readers, and fans. With the addition of AuthorCon in 2022, a new level of attention fell on the charity organization. AuthorCon was such an overwhelming success that it was quickly scheduled for a second year in 2023, and the demand for vendor tables was so great, authors were setting alarms for their on sale date: May 1, 2022.
While Scares That Care has focused on bringing together fans and creators of horror and genre entertainment around a good cause, AuthorCon is open to writers of all genres. And through its popularity, Scares That Care has increased its impact.
A Brief History
While 2014 saw the first weekend event for Scares That Care, the history of the charity goes back to 1996 and founder Joe Ripple’s years as a police officer. According to Ripple, it was in that year that the daughter of his partner on the force developed an inoperable brain tumor at age four. This was the catalyst behind Ripple’s desire to do something to help other children and families in similar situations. He also noted that there really wasn’t an organization that allowed people in the horror community to rally their resources and efforts around a charitable cause in a sustained and focused way.
The long-running Horrorfind Weekends was also an important part of the history of Scares That Care. Joe Ripple was invited as a guest to Horrorfind 2 because he ended up acting in and directing a feature length horror film. He had been an actor in high school and had reached a point in his police career where he felt he could afford the time to explore this passion again. After getting a small part in a film, he ended up being asked to direct as well. In all, he directed five or six horror films. From there, he was asked to help Horrorfind by heading up security. Many of the early supporters of Scares That Care came out of that group of Horrorfind alumni.
Around this time the discussion of running a charity weekend event for Scares came up. The organization had developed a significant fanbase on Facebook. Brian Keene had been running the author block for Horrorfind and the board of Scares tapped him to do the same for their inaugural event. According to Keene, he was originally invited as a guest and was asked to suggest other authors for the event. Very quickly he said he no longer wanted to be a guest, but wanted to work for the event and the charity.
The first Scares That Care Charity Weekend in 2014 did well and warranted trying it again the following year.
Fighting The Real Monsters
Joe Ripple met the late Sid Haig through Horrorfind as well. Haig is known for his extensive film and television career spanning over sixty years, and a filmography that includes work with directors George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino, Rob Zombie, and more. Haig said he wanted to come to the first Scares event. Ripple told him he wasn’t sure he could afford the airfare. Haig said if Joe could get him a room and a table, he’d figure out his own way there, which he did. Haig did a Captain Spalding photo op complete with make-up and costume. As Joe Ripple thanked him for his help in making the event a success, Haig donated a large portion of his take of the photo op money to the charity. He believed in the cause with all his heart. Sid Haig’s last convention appearance before his passing was the 2019 Scares That Care convention and he told Joe Ripple, “Don’t ever stop doing this. The world needs it.”
Kane Hodder, best known for his portrayal of Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th franchise, also believed very strongly in Scares That Care. He was a big part of Scares adopting a burn survivor as one of the recipients of funds each year, increasing the number of yearly recipients to three. Hodder has been known to call and offer words of encouragement to the recipients in addition to his involvement with the charity as talent.
Over time, Scares That Care has become a popular event among agents and actors. They like how people are treated and appreciate the atmosphere of Scares events. Speaking as an author who has attended all but two of the charity weekend events, the entire team has gone out of their way year after year to treat authors as an important part of the horror industry and a vital part of the charity effort.
The Pandemic Years
In early 2020 when the pandemic started in full, Joe Ripple, with the support of the Scares That Care board, put out a note for people to stop donating. They didn’t know how big of an impact the shutdowns would have on individuals who supported the charity. He also offered refunds on tables to vendors already signed up for what would have been the 2020 event. Very few took him up on this, and as the 2020 event was canceled, most rolled their tables over to 2021. Plans to expand the convention to an additional location in the Midwest in those years had to be dropped, but as the convention returned in 2021, plans for a different sort of expansion started up again.
Instead of expanding to another state, since they already had a good relationship with the host hotel in Williamsburg, Virginia, they decided to put on an event at the same location that focused specifically on authors. Coming out of the pandemic and not knowing what the absence of movie and TV celebrities might do to attendance, they were cautiously hopeful people would show up. And yes, they showed up in a big way. I wrote in some detail about AuthorCon specifically in a blog post you can check out here. AuthorCon was a great success for the authors who attended because so many readers were there to buy books. It was so successful, they were able to write and deliver one of their checks to a family immeadiately following that weekend. And again, AuthorCon is open to writers of all genres. AuthorCon, as a whole, has had a broader impact on the horror industry over these last few years.
Something Bigger Than a Convention
At first glance, the Scares That Care events might look like any of the other conventions that take place all around the world every year. But it doesn’t take long to see there is something else going on. The fact that it is for a good cause, all to help others in need, creates a different atmosphere. It’s about something more than simply selling a few books or pictures.
Coming out of the pandemic, there were a number of authors who had started to rise in popularity. AuthorCon was the first event where they got to see how big their fanbase had gotten. Many conventions focus heavily on the on-screen talent, leaving authors as an afterthought. Other conventions are primarily networking events. They give the same sort of socializing and interacting opportunities Scares does, but they don’t typically attract the readers. Authors like Josh Malerman, S.A. Cosby, Paul Tremblay and others have mentioned Scares events as being their first real opportunity to engage their audience in a big way. Agents and publishers now push for already successful and up-and-coming talent to attend Scares. Up-and-coming authors in particular have benefitted from connecting with fans and networking, opening new opportunities for publishing in the future.
In the process of helping others, Scares That Care has cast the horror industry in a better light with the general public. AuthorCon is also taking steps to expand that reach into other genres. The biggest hope for the future of Scares That Care is to help more and more families each year. The growing involvement of writers, readers, and fans is making that possible.
Speaking as a person who has dealt with major health issues and who has been in need, I understand how important the work of Scares That Care is. Having others fight for you when you are not well is an incredible thing. Being able to stand with others in the horror industry to give back a little of the kindness that has been shown to me over the years has meant a lot. I know what it is like to be in darkness and to hear a chorus of voices call out, “Let us help.”
The Scares That Care community fights the real monsters. That includes the illnesses they target, but also the isolation, fear, and desperation that comes from fighting for your life or the life of someone you love. That isolation that lies to you and tells you that you are alone, the hopelessness that creeps in when you are not well or when there is nothing you can do to ease your loved one’s suffering.
Scares that Care gives money to these families. Money isn’t everything, but I know firsthand when you are dealing with a serious, ongoing illness, money buys you room to breathe. And when you are fighting for your life, your next breath is no small miracle.
To leave a comment