Forest of Fear continues to support community
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Ideal weather, plenty of volunteers, and a steady stream of people seeking to get spooked allowed the Forest of Fear to scare up a record amount of donations to support local students and community organizations.
The Forest of Fear, located off of Stephan Bridge Road, ran every weekend in October up through Halloween.
The Forest of Fear marked its 12th anniversary this year.
Mother Nature cooperated, and there were times when there was an hour and a half wait for people to go through the haunted trail walk.
“We had one night that we couldn’t run because it rained, but we still did fairly well,” said Forest of Fear founder Tom Cojocar. “People were just all over. It was great.”
The Forest of Fear gathered a record amount of $8,300 in proceeds, which were donated to support local students and community organizations. That was up from $6,500 last year.
Cojocar attributed the success to the Forest of Fear getting bigger and drawing more people coming through the trail walk.
“We’re on the map now,” Cojocar. “We are a must-see attraction.”
In conjunction with the Forest of Fear, Cojocar’s grandson, Jeremy Hempel, sold glow sticks and raised $110. The money went to buy a few things for his classroom and to pay the way for some students to go on a field trip since they couldn’t afford to pay the fee.
Hempel’s peers wrote him to thank him for supporting them.
“Some of those letters were so powerful, I just had tears rolling down my eyes when I read them,” Cojocar said. “It was very thoughtful of them. It was really something.”
From the proceeds gathered, $300 was used to bus groups of Grayling Elementary School students to the Forest of Fear on Halloween. Candy and special decorations for Halloween were also purchased for the day.
Only two groups of students made it out to tour the haunted trail walk due to the snowy weather conditions and slick roads.
“It kind of bummed me out a little bit that the third group didn’t come out,” Cojocar. “The school said, because of the roads, they just couldn’t do it.”
A $1,000 donation was given to the River House Shelter, Inc., a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, located in Grayling.
Carla Ott, development director for the River House Shelter, Inc., said the donation was an extension of the partnership formed between the Forest of Fear for its 5K Zombie Run held on Oct. 7.
“It was very much appreciated and it will absolutely go to a good cause,” Ott said.
A total of $500 worth of dog food, cat food, and cat litter was donated to the AuSable Valley Animal Shelter.
The Crawford County Community Christian Help Center, which puts food on the table for needy residents, received a $2,000 donation.
For every $1 donated to the Help Center, the food pantry can get $6 worth of food from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.
Dora Mead, the director of the Crawford County Community Christian Help Center, said the Forest of Fear donation will go a long way toward providing food for families for the holiday season.
“It’s a big help this time of year because we are in the processes getting meat for Christmas dinners and we have an increase in clients in November and December,” Mead said. “That’s a huge amount.”
The Crawford AuSable School District received a $3,000 donation, which will support the Grayling Viking Pantry at the Grayling High School and the new food pantries just started at the Grayling Middle School and Grayling Elementary School.
The Grayling Elementary School and Roscommon Elementary School each received a $500 donation to buy boots, hats, and gloves for students.
Project Graduation, for Grayling High School’s Class of 2018, received a $500 donation.
A total of 48 volunteers, who Cojocar calls his “Bloodline,” helped stage the trail walk and spooked Forest of Fear visitors on weekend nights.
Cojocar said he appreciates those who donate lights and mannequins for the trail walk, and the support of the general public which has made Forest of Fear a success.
“I feel grateful that I have the volunteers to be able to pull something like this off,” Cojocar said.