Each October for the past 20 years, Vickie Ayers and her parents built a haunted house at their Coquitlam home.
Their aim was two-fold: To enchant young families in the lead up to Halloween and to raise money for Variety - The Children’s Charity.
The Coquitlam Halloween House, located at 443 Draycott St., was a well-known seasonal fixture, attracting visitors as far as Tsawwassen and West Vancouver.
It also built community spirit, said Ayers’ mother, Lucille, with neighbours gathering every year to see the new decorations as well as make a donation to the organization that supports B.C. kids with medical care and services.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown last year — compounded with personal medical challenges — Vickie Ayers decided not to re-create her famous Halloween scene.
And with the provincial health restrictions continuing this year, the 53-year-old woman thought it was time to wind down her haunted house for good, after collecting a total of $114,000 for the cause — about one-fifth of what’s she’s brought in for Variety over the past 43 years.
On Sept. 18 and 19, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Ayers will host a yard sale to sell the remaining Halloween decorations from her annual operation, with proceeds going to Variety.
Many items are one-of-a-kind, Lucille Ayers said, noting most were donated by family-run businesses, as well as Save-On-Foods and Safeway, after Halloween ended to get rid of their left-over stock.
Other items came in from people who were moving away or from strangers, she said; one man arrived at their home one year with a fake coffin in the back of his truck.
In fact, the Ayers gained so many Halloween pieces over the two decades that they had a hard time finding places to store them, after the crawlspace and garage were stuffed (the bigger objects were placed under a tarp, at the side of their home).
But putting them up and packing them away each year got tough, said Lucille Ayers who, like her husband, Barry, is 82 years old.
“With the pandemic and everything happening, we just thought, ‘We can’t do it anymore.’ We’ve told Variety. I guess all good things come to an end.”
But while the haunted house is closing, Vickie Ayers will continue with her other “B” projects for Variety: Bottle drives (donations will be accepted at their Halloween decoration yard sale); barbecues; and bocce invitational tournaments.
“Vickie is an inspiration to us all because of her incredible generosity, positivity and kind heart,” Variety CEO Cally Wesson told the Tri-City News.
“And now with her and her family’s iconic haunted Halloween house closing its doors, it truly is the end of an era. We’re extremely appreciative for all they’ve done to help transform the lives of local kids with special needs throughout the Tri-Cities.”
Vickie Ayers started with her Variety campaigns at the age of 10, in response to her younger brother’s autism challenges.
Today, Lucille Ayers said, her son, David, 49, lives in his own apartment, can hold a small job and is active in the community.
She credits Vickie, who has learning disabilities and had a stroke six years ago, for helping the charity provide essential care for children in need with mobility and communication equipment and therapies, and education, among other things.
“Vickie had a dream and, as parents, we did what could to support her,” Lucille Ayers said.
“This was her focus. She did not hesitate to ask for help and people responded. That was the magic that Vickie has. It draws people in.”
“She’s got the biggest heart and she’s always got a smile on her face.”
Lucille Ayers said she’ll miss the Coquitlam Haunted House, too, and the families that swung by each year; many arrived 20 years ago with their babies and have made it a tradition to visit 443 Draycott St. at Halloween.
They only had a couple of minor incidents over the years with their display but, being close to a school, “I think we were spared from being targeted because all of the kids knew us. There was goodwill.”
“We’ve had some good memories.”
The Coquitlam Halloween House yard sale takes place Sept. 18 and 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, you can visit the Coquitlam Halloween House website.