Mum-of-four Kim Herkes, from Edinburgh, is opening up her ghostly garden on the spookiest night of the year – to raise money in support of families affected by Huntington’s disease, a devastating and incurable condition.
Kim (35) and her family – husband Colin (39) and sons Aaron (17), Jayden (14), Logan (5) and Jaxon (2) go all out to celebrate Hallowe’en every year by transforming their back garden into a haunted horror fest with zombies, vampires, skulls, pumpkins and scary skeletons lurking in the shadows.
The busy mum spends months creating the models out of bits and pieces found around the house, paper mache and modelling clay. Then after she has brought the creepy characters to life, Colin and the boys get stuck in to display them outside.
It’s become a real Hallowe’en highlight in their community. Last year hordes of little horrors, witches, ghosts, monsters and ghouls – with their parents in tow – showed up to explore the fiend-filled forest at Kim’s back door.
“It started out as a bit of fun for local children but last year it was so much bigger. We had more than 100 people and some came back for a second visit, bringing friends from the other side of Edinburgh. Colin ended up having to dash round the shops because we ran out of sweets,” said Kim.
“Lots of visitors assumed it was for charity and were shocked that we weren’t taking donations. They convinced me it was a good fundraising opportunity and I decided that this year we’d support Scottish Huntington’s Association and families affected by Huntington’s disease.”
Huntington’s disease affects the brain and causes severe physical, mental and cognitive symptoms. These include uncontrolled jerky movements and the loss of ability to walk, talk and swallow. Thinking processes can change, resulting in early onset dementia and loss of ability to plan and organise. Serious mental illness such as mood swings, depression, anxiety, and, in some people, psychosis, may also develop.
As symptoms progress, 24-hour care can become necessary, meaning it is not possible to live at home. To compound the devastating toll on families still further, each child of a person with Huntington’s is at 50/50 risk of inheriting the disease.
Scottish Huntington’s Association is the only charity in the country dedicated exclusively to providing the tailored support families need. It does this through a nationwide network of Huntington’s Disease Specialists, Financial Wellbeing Officers and Specialist Youth Advisors.
“My grandmother has Huntington’s disease and looking back we think her mother – my great grandmother – had it too. We first began to notice changes when Gran’s behaviour started to change. She would become very angry, very quickly and could be quite aggressive. She thought there was nothing wrong but her arms were jerking and her speech was becoming affected. Now it’s becoming more difficult for her to talk and her memory is deteriorating,” said Kim.
“We’d never heard of Huntington’s disease before Gran’s diagnosis about 10 years ago and had no idea that it could be passed down through the generations. Our wider family is affected but fortunately my mum tested negative, which means I’m not at risk and neither are our boys.
“It must be terrifying to have the disease and to know that you’re losing yourself, and it’s awful to watch that happening to someone you love.
“Scottish Huntington’s Association does great work to make sure specialist support and the right care is there for families. I’m pleased to do my bit and hopefully we’ll raise much-needed funds and awareness – all while having a bit of frightening fun with our friends and neighbours.”