The experts of all things scary, Spirit Halloween, plans to raise $15,000 or more this year to purchase items to help ease the fears of children at Baptist Hospital’s Children Emergency Center in Beaumont.
The fundraising effort is part of the Spirit of Children program, which helps the hospital purchase laptops, iPads, arts and crafts, bubble machines, flat screen televisions, medical education dolls and other items to distract kids during what can be an extremely frightening experience.
“This is our fourth year (of fundraising) for Baptist (Hospital), and every year we raise the bar,” said Linda Smith, owner of nine Spirit Halloween shops including Beaumont and Nederland locations. “Hospitals are scary. We try to make it less scary.”
In addition to funds raised through the Spirit of Children program, Smith also throws a party each year for children at the hospital with money from her own pocket.
“On Oct. 16, we’ll do a party for the kids at Baptist Hospital,” she said. “We do face painting and dress up. I take costumes and have some of our vendors donate costumes. It’s a love thing. I don’t take any money out of the donations for the party. It’s just what we do.”
Smith said customer donations are what make the Spirit of Children program possible,and this year, the store has plenty of new costumes and animatronics to attract Halloween lovers including Spirit’s Leg Avenue costume clothing, which has become a popular attraction for women who wish to add a little seductiveness to their scare.
“Leg Avenue is known in the industry as the sexy line; it’s everywhere,” she said.
Spirit has many costume lines that are exclusively licensed to the store including Adventure Time, Disney, Duck Dynasty and The Walking Dead.
“Zombies are huge,” Smith said, adding that the “Walking Dead” marathon beginning on Oct. 7 and running through the Season 4 premiere on Sunday, Oct. 13, only adds to the costume line’s popularity. “A lot of people are doing ‘Walking Dead’ parties and are coming in to buy stuff for the parties.”
Old favorites such as Freddie Krueger and Ghostface (“Scream”) costumes are still bestsellers as well, Smith added.
Those interested in donating to the Spirit of Children program can visit the 4144 Dowlen Road location (formerly Manning’s) in Beaumont, or the 2828 Highway 365 location in Nederland. Upcoming events at Spirit include a how-to demonstration on Halloween makeup every Saturday around 11 a.m. and a Lifeshare blood drive, date and time to be determined, where nurses will dress up as zombies and vampires and donors will receive discount coupons toward Spirit store items. Store hours are Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nationwide, Spirit has raised more than $11 million in cash and merchandise donations and has worked with hundreds of hospitals across the United States and Canada through its Spirit of Children since the program started seven years ago. For more information, visit www.spirithalloween.com  or call (409) 504-4404.