Skip to main content

The City Journals

Spooks come out to raise funds for charity

Oct 09, 2017 12:56PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Sherri Van Bibber, president-elect of the Exchange Club of Murray, puts the final touches on a corn shock. (Photos courtesy Exchange Club of Murray)

By Shaun Delliskave  |  [email protected]


For three days in October, the western bank of Little Cottonwood Creek in Murray Park will be transformed into a family-friendly adventure where kids can venture down a “silly” trail, complete with whimsical pixies. Or, if they dare, they can travel the spooky trail.


For many Murray residents, going to the Haunted Woods in Murray Park is as much a Halloween tradition as watching Charlie Brown collect a bag full of rocks for tricks-or-treats every year. This year marks 40 years of haunting to raise funds for a good cause.


The perennial event takes place on Oct. 23, 24, and 25, and is put on by the National Exchange Club of Murray. This year marks the last term in office of Exchange Club President Jennifer Brass. She will hand over the reigns over to President-elect Sherri Van Bibber, who has been coordinating the holiday event for the past five years.


According to Van Bibber, “This is our fifth year, and it has grown bigger every year. We have high school clubs from Skyline High, Cottonwood High, Murray High, American International School of Utah (AISU), and our COY (Commission on Youth) and Interact (Rotary) Youth all running the woods.”


“We have about 135 volunteers last year and that grows also. If a high school club volunteers for all three nights and helps with setting up and tearing down, we donate a stipend to their club,” added Van Bibber. The high school club members act in various scenes as visitors walked through the woods.


The event remains very popular—800 to 1,200 people from the Salt Lake Valley walk through the Haunted Woods each night it is open. This marks the second year of the event with two trails, one for the younger kids and another for older kids seeking a scare.


As popular as the Haunted Woods is, at one time it was in jeopardy of being closed due to city budget constraints. “When the city needed to cut back and was going to drop some seasonal events, such as the Haunted Woods, the public started to complain because this was one of the only family-friendly trails, and it had become a tradition to families for over 30 years, all cross the valley. Our Exchange Club had been looking for a way to create a fund raiser, and adopting this [the Haunted Woods] just seemed to go hand in hand,” remarked Van Bibber.


The Murray Exchange Club and the Murray Chamber of Commerce have been organizing the Haunted Woods for 16 years now. Van Bibber has been involved with program even longer. “I had been involved in the Haunted Woods since about 1995. I have always loved Halloween, and I worked with The Murray School District at the time. Later, as an employee of the Murray Boys & Girls Club, I became involved with the Murray Exchange Club, especially with their main platform being ‘The Prevention of Child Abuse’,” she explained.


All proceeds from the Haunted Woods go to groups dedicated to fighting child abuse and domestic violence. Funds raised from the 2017 event were donated to Taylorsville Family Services, Midvale Family Center, South Valley Sanctuary, the Utah CO-OP, the youth homeless shelter, and the Victim Advocates program of Murray.


“That is where our hearts go to in this group. Some of our own families have been touched by these issues, so we are passionate,” noted Van Bibber. “It’s amazing to be able to help these groups…and we hope [people knowing] that the funds go to prevent child abuse and domestic violence will help increase the support.”


The event is run entirely by volunteers in partnership with Murray City Parks and Recreation. It is sponsored by the Murray City Chamber of Commerce and Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance. 


2017 marked something new for the event. In addition to its traditional donuts and hot chocolate, Van Bibber said that “this year we cooked hotdogs and fed the masses.”


The Haunted Woods will be held from October 23-25th from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm at Pavilion #5 (on the south side of the swimming pool) in Murray City Park.  Admission is $5.00 per person.