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Cystic FibrosisWeb Exclusives

A Haunting Worth the Scare

New Jersey’s EAKFEST is one-part haunted wooded trail, one-part fall festival, and one-part cystic fibrosis fundraiser.
Web Exclusives – August 17, 2017
John Parkinson
Alicia (left) and her daughter Jackie

In a deep, darkened forest under a cool, fall night sky in Central New Jersey, you walk through a trail that is sure to scare. The EAKFEST haunted trail is lined with eclectic fright stations manned by volunteers who have created elaborate sets for their fright scenes. The volunteers’ creativity and individuality are on display as their imaginations run wild with various scare tactics and acting.

As you come upon these scenes, your breathing and heartbeat quickens, and your body tenses as you await the next scare to come out of the dark. Zombies and other members of the undead adorned in blood-splattered clothes or ghost-colored face paint greet you with hair-raising screams or nonsensical chants.

On these chilling tours through the woods, your group winds through the night alone, adding to the suspense of the haunted tour.

For those of you who like to be scared, especially around Halloween, EAKFEST is the event for you! And for those who don’t like to be scared but like to go to outdoor fall and Halloween festivals, EAKFEST also has what you are looking for with nonhaunted hayrides, rides and games for the kids, food, and music. All the sets are constructed by the volunteers as out-of-pocket expenses, and all their time spent working the haunted trail each night is unpaid.

EAKFEST is not only a great way to get your scare on and have family fun, it helps benefit cystic fibrosis (CF) research for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. EAKFEST was founded by Alicia Applegate, and her daughter, Jackie Eak. It started as a backyard party when Jackie was just a little girl, years before she was diagnosed with CF.

In October 2006, when Jackie was officially diagnosed with CF at the age of 12, Alicia thought she was going to have to cancel EAKFEST, but Jackie insisted on having the party.

“That was when I realized how much it meant to her, and it just clicked in my head that maybe it could become an event to raise money to help cure this disease,” says Alicia. Three years later that thought became a reality. EAKFEST, the festive, Halloween fundraiser, has been growing ever since.

For the fundraising portion of the event, Alicia and Jackie investigated various charities, but decided on the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Ninety percent of the fundraising proceeds that are collected by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation go directly into research and programs that help people with CF.

Jackie in character

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, CF is “a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria, leading to infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food, and, absorb vital nutrients.”

Jackie’s daily treatment regimen includes 1 to 2 hours of using an inhaler treatment to break up mucus in her lungs, as well as taking enzymes before meals to help her digest fats and proteins.

These things can be done in the privacy of her home, so, in terms of outward appearances, people have no idea Jackie has a chronic, serious illness. She wants people to understand that although people may not appear to be sick, there is more than meets the eye. “CF is an example of an invisible illness,” says Jackie. “You can’t see it on the outside.”

“While most people think of CF affecting the lungs, it affects the whole body,” adds Alicia.

Alicia says the disease is complicated, with more than 1,000 mutations in the CFTR gene. Jackie does, however, have a more common strain of the disease, and Alicia says there are a lot of new drugs in the pipeline to treat Jackie’s form of CF.

A monster from the trail

“As a parent, you feel the need to do whatever you possibly can to help your child—to keep them safe, happy, and healthy. EAKFEST was about the closest I could come to that,” explains Alicia. “I couldn’t just make her feel better; I could only give her what the doctors told me to give her. And in order for them to give her the best treatment possible, they need money for research.”

Although there are promising new medicines being developed, financial support is still greatly needed to finish research on these drugs, get them through clinical trials, and get final approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. This whole process can take years and be very costly.

EAKFEST is a great way to give to this important cause and have fun!

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Last modified: August 30, 2018

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