Halloween at the Angelus comes with 18 "haunted" rooms, a 40-foot pirate ship and a balloon trail — all easily accessible to people in wheelchairs.
This is the third year for the haunted house at the well-known center that is home to 32 profoundly disabled people.
Angelus director Joe Nieri said the residents enjoyed helping prepare the haunted house for the public by acting and painting props for the 4,000-square-foot house. He credited the idea to Don Surenkamp, owner of Patriotic Fireworks.
"We appreciate everything Don's doing for us," Nieri said. "He is a great guy and he's always there helping us out."
In the fall of 2001, business was slow at Surenkamp's store, save for a group of special-needs children who came by regularly. "I had the extra time to help them in the door each time they showed up and I thought of the haunted house idea," he said. "It clicked in my head that the Angelus was already 100 percent handicapped-accessible."
Surenkamp's family had been in the Halloween business, and he took his expertise to the Angelus haunted house.
Several acres are used for the house with specialties such as the pirate ship, the balloon trail and a hayride. Of course there are the usual thrills and chills of ghosts and scary creatures popping up out of the darkness, but this haunted house also offers the no-scare option. If visitors don't want a scare, they simply take a glow stick through the house and the actors won't startle them.
On an average night there are likely to be at least six Angelus residents acting in the haunted house. Surenkamp believes this haunted house is a way to make a connection between the community and disabled people. He spoke fondly of his friend Jo-Jo who meets and greets visitors at the entrance.
"These residents just want someone to take some time to communicate with them," Surenkamp said. "You can look at these kids and see the connection between them and the people in wheelchairs and there is no better feeling. … That's why I do it."
Surenkamp has received help from volunteers from clubs and the Boy Scouts, and he encourages anyone from the community wanting to volunteer.
The Angelus is also looking for actors.