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Raising the dead to raise money for diabetes

Haunted Forest opens Friday at dark

POSTED: November 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo/Michele Hester/

Ghosts, goblins, witches and warlocks will be on the prowl beginning Friday night at sunset as Parker Cantrell opens the Haunted Forest in his backyard on Park Avenue to the public. The Haunted Forest is free, although donations will be accepted. All proceeds will benefit juvenile diabetes.

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Parker Cantrell hopes raising the dead this weekend will raise a few bucks for diabetes research.


Ghosts, goblins, witches and warlocks will be on the prowl beginning Friday night at sunset as Cantrell opens the Haunted Forest in his backyard on Park Avenue to the public.


Cantrell and his dad Jeff Cantrell started the Haunted Forest tradition after Parker, now 10, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 4.


“I couldn’t eat the candy, so we didn’t go trick or treating,” Cantrell said.

Instead, the Cantrells dressed up, spooked trick or treaters and passed out tricks and treats to the neighbors on Halloween.


As years passed, and with help from a few friends, the small garage spook house operation evolved into four ghastly nights of horror.


Now six years later a dark, deserted trail meanders through the Parker’s haunted backyard forest as chainsaws roar in the darkness and screams send chills down your spine.


“We have a few new things this year, like the Children of the Corn,” Parker said.


Also new this year is a collaboration with club members of the Health Occupations Students of America at Dawson County High School.


“We do several service projects each year in the community, and this seemed like a great fit,” said HOSA President Taylor Rowan.


Rowan, who lives nearby and has helped scare visitors at the Haunted Forest for several years, said it’s important to the students to be able to help with such an important cause.


“Last year, we held an event for autism, and raising money for juvenile diabetes is something we wanted to do,” he said.


The Haunted Forest is free to the public, although donations will be accepted, with all proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.


Since Parker was diagnosed, the preteen has raised and donated over $30,000 to the foundation from benefit singings, fun walks and the haunted forest.


A year ago, Parker said he hoped to raise $1 million for the foundation by the time he turns 18.


“That’s still my goal,” he said.


The Haunted Forest, located at 16 Park Avenue, off Hwy. 9 North in Dawsonville, will run Friday, Oct. 24, Saturday, Oct. 25, Friday, Oct. 31 and Saturday, Nov. 1, beginning at dark each night.


E-mail Michele Hester at



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