Finding inspiration to make a change in your community can take time, and it comes more naturally to some of us than others. For WCI’s own Kia Tagger, that passion stemmed from an early childhood friend who, at the age of only 3 years old, was diagnosed with brain cancer. For years, Kia and her family attended fundraisers and events promoting cancer awareness, and at 10 years old, she took it upon herself to create one of her own. Kia, along with the help of her siblings, came up with the idea to prepare a haunted house, naming it Spooky Tours. They combined their love for Halloween with the hope that this catchy idea would bring a lot of attention to their cause, and it has. In the past 8 years, Spooky Tours has generated about $5,000 that went directly to the Canadian Cancer Society, along with donations to local food and clothing drives. This event has grown immensely, attracting a lot of attention from the community and has also gained a lot of attention recognition from both municipal and provincial leaders including Catherine Fife, Bardish Chagger, and Dave Jaworsky, who have attended the event on multiple occasions and commended Kia for her selflessness and dedication towards the cause. After talking to Kia, this is what she had to say about the event.
What is Spooky Tours?
Spooky Tours is a haunted house to raise money for cancer research.
When did Spooky Tours start/how long has it been going on?
This will be the 8th year of Spooky Tours. I came up with the idea of Spooky Tours when I was 8 and took two years to finally get off the ground. Our first event ran when I was 10.
What inspired you to start this event?
“My brother, sister and I were at Relay for Life in Waterloo, Ontario. Relay for Life is a 12-hour walk for cancer research. My siblings and I were with a friend that was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 3 and was given only a 2% chance of living but he survived. My siblings and I were upset we didn’t raise as much money as other people who attended the event so my sister and I thought we would make a haunted house to raise money!”
How has the event grown or evolved into what it is today?
Each year the event itself has grown larger and larger. We have taken over 3 floors in my house. This year a new addition has been a giant maze in our backyard.
How has this event affected the community?
We have had our Waterloo local politicians attend the Spooky Tours event. Bardish Chagger, Catherine Fife, and Mayor Dave Jaworsky have all attended Spooky Tours. Local media have also attended Spooky Tours; CTV news has come since 2014, snapd has done a piece, and CBC radio has done an interview with myself. Last year I was lucky to have 200 guests attend Spooky Tours. I’ve also been very lucky to collaborate with many local businesses, that without their help, Spooky Tours would never be able to go on every year. All these have given me great experiences connecting with people and has grown my passion for fighting cancer.
How much has Spooky Tours donated to the Canadian Cancer Society over the past eight years?
To date, we have raised $3,000 from Spooky Tours, all of which goes to the Canadian Cancer Society.
What other foundations have you donated to?
This year we are also collecting clothing donations for the homeless population in KW. We also collect food for the KW food bank.
How has this event changed your life personally?
I am very honored to have won the 2016 Leading Girls award. That year after Spooky Tours I was approached by Catherine Fife, who asked me if she could nominate me for the Leading Girls and Building Communities award. It was a very amazing experience to go to the luncheon and receive the Leading Girls and Building Communities award. I was recognized for my ability to connect with people, collaboration with local businesses, my passion for a cause and my leadership skills. Being able to connect with people is important for creating an event like Spooky Tours. Collaboration with local businesses is also vital when doing an event like this. Value Village has donated all costumes for Spooky Tours since 2014. All the skills I was recognized for have given me a positive outlook on life and helped make me confident. Being recognized for the Leading Girls and Building Communities award was a great honor for me. I was lucky to be recognized for skills I am good at and enjoy doing.
What do you have planned for Spooky Tours in the future?
I hope to continue doing Spooky Tours. Since this is my last year of high school and next year the program I’d like to go to is in Branford I’m not sure if next year will happen at this time. Hopefully, I can find someone that’s been involved in the past to take on my role in future years.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to start their own fundraisers or events?
You need to have a lot of time on your hands and a huge passion for anything you are doing. Do not do it for personal gain, do it because you honestly want to help people.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve taken away from creating an event that impacted so many people?
Within my years working to build spooky tours I’ve learned the important lesson spoken by Theodore Roosevelt which is that “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
Spooky Tours website: https://spookytours.wordpress.com