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The Hood Magazine

Volunteering (and Scaring) as a Family

Sep 30, 2019 ● By The Hood Magazine

Whether it’s camping, music, fishing, or another pursuit, parents love to share their passions with their children. The Rierson family has found a way to combine their passions with volunteering ⁠— allowing them to give back and share their love for scaring people at Halloween.

Jesse and Helena Rierson and their son, Gerald, volunteer with the Jaycees Feargrounds, the Sioux Falls Jaycees’ haunted house project. Located at the W.H. Lyons Fairgrounds, it is run by the Sioux Falls Jaycees, a nonprofit which provides young people opportunities to develop leadership skills through community service projects. Jesse volunteers his skills as an EMS, while Helena and Gerald don makeup and costumes to scare the haunted house’s patrons.

It all started when Jesse was volunteering at the haunted house and Helena brought Gerald to say good night after trunk or treating. “While Jesse and I were talking, Gerald started walking by the line outside and a few girls were frightened by him,” Helena said. “He fell in love with scaring right then.” Gerald created his character, Chuckles the Clown, when he was 6 years old. He takes a lot of pride in his character, and is always excited to “go back to his job” at the haunted house. “He does a lot of his own research (on YouTube) on different laughs or moves to continue to grow his character,” Helena said. “Once he finds something he likes, he comes to us to demonstrate and ask for feedback.” Now, the whole family volunteers together at the haunted house every year.

But scaring isn’t the only passion the family shares. They also volunteer with the Sioux Falls Herpetological Society. Jesse is the current president of the nonprofit, but they all help — especially with the education part of it. “We have around 20 reptiles,” Helena said. “We usually bring as many as we can to events so that people can have the interactions that they wouldn't normally have. We teach them that you should have respect for all animals and to treat them as you would any other animal.”

Volunteering with the Herpetological Society and sharing their love for reptiles is another way the Riersons get to spend quality time together and give back to their community. “Being able to volunteer as a family means the world to us, because like any family, life gets crazy sometimes,” Helena said, “but it's amazing to be able to come together and create these memories while still helping others and making new friends.”

The Jaycees Feargrounds opens its scare season October 11. Learn more at

Learn more about the Sioux Falls Herpetological Society at