PALM HARBOR — There’s a family in Palm Harbor that turns their front yard into a graveyard every year for Halloween. Somewhere along the way, they realized the same tricks that make you jump and scream could also be used to raise money for their favorite charity. They call it Haunt For HEP.
When Mike Long and his son Andrew started decorating for Halloween seven years ago, they relied on store-bought items, but not anymore.
“Everything you see here is hand-built, it’s all one of a kind,” said Long.
This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the graveyard wakes up at night with an array of animatronics, just like you were in Disney World.
“There’s stuff everywhere, props going off, motions, sounds, smells, fog, lightning and thunder, we really try to engage all of the senses,” said Long.
Over the course of the year, the Longs will spend over 1,000 hours in the garage working on every little ghoulish detail.
“There’s coding that’s involved in it in order to control the show,” said Long. “The props are getting larger, they are getting far more involved.”
It’s not just about the fright, but shining a light on a local non-profit in need, HEP.
“When we saw the opportunity to attach it to a great charity, a great foundation, like the Homeless Empowerment Program, we jumped right on it,” said Long.
In the past four years, they’ve raised over $10,000 dollars for the organization and this Halloween is expected to be the most generous yet.
“So we have two other haunts that are part of this, they are partners with us this year: The House on the Hill Haunted Trail over in Tarpon Springs and also Scare House Pinellas over in Largo, so what we are trying to do is franchise out throughout the Bay Area,” said Long.
HEP Marketing Director Rebecca Adams said it’s inspirational to see a family turning something they love into a way to give back to the community.
“Really great to see them be able to grow that and in that process be able to help HEP grow and help the individuals that come into the shelter get them back on their feet,” said Adams.
Haunt For Hep is located in the East Lake neighborhood on 3425 Brian Rd. S in Palm Harbor.