Buffalo Grove teen's haunted garage raises funds for Make-A-Wish
Shane Pollard of Buffalo Grove holds several leadership positions at Stevenson High School, which should go a long way into gaining him acceptance into one of the Big 10 business schools in the area.
But what admissions officers may not see on his resume is his penchant for Halloween decorations and his knack for turning his family's garage into a haunted asylum.
For the past four years, Shane and his father, Todd, have spent the entire month of October converting their two-car garage into a haunted house. Their handiwork draws families to line their block to see all of the scary displays.
Inside the garage, they've set up maze of several black hallways. A fog machine and constant strobe light set the atmosphere, with eerie music and a cast of characters jumping out at any point.
Over the years, the family has invested in a series of animatronics, or talking displays, such as a flaming black widow, asylum straight jacket guy, talking Frankenstein, a seated freak, electric box and others.
"We've spent a small fortune purchasing and making Halloween decorations," says Shane's mother, Beth, with a laugh.
But it's always been a family affair. The haunted garage evolved from years of family Halloween parties where Shane, his older sister, Mikayla, and parents would make the decorations, design games and bake Halloween-themed desserts.
"There was so much thought and time put into planning each and every design for our treats," Shane adds. "But we did it together."
Shane took it one step further when he began to decorate the outside of their home and converted the front lawn into a cemetery. He mounted his first haunted house when he was 14.
"Parents would always tell me I should charge admission," Shane says. "This year, although admission is free, I decided I would accept donations for Make-A-Wish Illinois. Might as well go out with a bang, right?"
The house 2391 Chambourd Drive in Buffalo Grove is open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Halloween.
His connection to Make-A-Wish goes back to when he was in seventh grade and he organized a "Survivor"-themed fundraiser for the organization at Daniel Wright Junior High School in Lincolnshire.
Shane describes his passion for helping kids less fortunate than himself, and it shows with his involvement at Stevenson. He leads the Best Buddies club as president, and outside of school, he volunteers at camp and other programs run by the Special Recreation Association of Central Lake County.
"I hope that my passion for helping others, combined with my passion for the Halloween season, is a win-win," Shane adds.
Clearly, the folks at Make-A-Wish Illinois think so. They work year-round to raise money to make dreams come true for children diagnosed with a critical illness, and every bit of fundraising helps.
Last year, the organization granted just over 700 wishes for children, with an average wish costing $10,000.
"Events like this bring neighbors and friends together for a great cause, and allow Make-A-Wish to offer hope and resilience to wish children and their families," says Jessica Miller of Make-A-Wish Illinois.
She adds that a wish experience goes beyond a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It can replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope. Wishes, she says, give children renewed energy and bring families closer together.