SCARES THAT CARE: An Interview with founder Joe Ripple

I found out about Scares That Care a few months ago. I contacted Joe Ripple, the founder, a little over a week ago and he graciously agreed to a telephone interview with me. It is my hope that after you read this you will want to do something to help any or all three of these families. You can help by sending a donation or by simply spreading the word about Scares That Care on the social networks.  Thank you and I hope you enjoy the interview.

Joe, can you tell my readers a little bit about the evolution of Scares That Care?

The evolution of Scares That Care came about as a result of my business partner. I’m actually a horror filmmaker myself and for a number of years I was partnered with a gentleman by the name of Don Dohler. During our friendship and our partnership, however, he contracted lung and brain cancer and subsequently passed away as a result of that. At the time, he was the caregiver for his mentally challenged 53 year-old sister, Joy. So I wanted to do something for the family, and with Don being well-liked and respected in the horror community we had a marathon of sorts of his films and a silent auction and we raised quite a bit of money and donated every single cent to the care of Joy just to give the family a hand. On top of that for the last ten years I’ve been the head of security for the Horrorfind Weekend Convention and I always noticed how kind and generous horror fans were. So the culmination of those two things led me down the path to eventually create Scares That Care.

So from the ‘About’ page on the Scares That Care site it says that you were a former police officer and a film director. So you’re saying that those two things kind of came together to help with the formation of Scares That Care. Is that correct?

Well, it came together only in the sense that I was afforded the opportunity to become the director of security for the Horrorfind Weekend Convention. Had I not been able to do that I probably wouldn’t have seen from my own eyes how really cool and really kind and generous that horror fans were. So it’s kind of like a perfect storm, as it were; and the families that benefit from the perfect storm are the families that we choose to help.

I don’t really think that people who are not fans of horror would expect horror fans to be as generous as you and I know that they can be. I think they just see us as weird and that’s it.

We are weird and I’m glad of it because that does separate us from everybody else. The key thing to remember is that we don’t judge anybody. We have a saying at Scares That Care that we don’t care what your religious beliefs are or if you even have any; we don’t care who you choose to love, we don’t care what the color of your skin is. We only have two requirements; the first requirement is that you love horror movies and the second is that you want to help people.

The first time I heard about Scares That Care was through Kane Hodder‘s website. Other than Kane are there any other celebrities that have pitched in to help with Scares That Care?

Well, what you have to remember is that I’ve been working this charity since 2006. We just got our 501(c) (3) in 2011. The 501(c) (3) is the IRS designation that proves that we’ve been through that process and been verified by the IRS that we are a legitimate charity. You know, that people can get those tax deductions from if they donate to us. With that and with being around the horror conventions and things like that many of the celebrities now know who I am, and they’ve at least heard about Scares That Care. So we’ve often had celebrities who have once they’ve seen me and have never heard of it that once we explain it to them and they’re automatically offering up some autograph pictures that we can then auction off to raise money for the cause. Kane is the only one that we’ve actually partnered with; but two years ago Bruce Campbell himself did a live auction to help raise money for Scares That Care at the Horrorfind Weekend Convention and that was really cool.

Who benefits from Scares That Care? What is your selection process?

When I first started the charity one of the things I wanted to do was to establish a track record of credibility. We’ve raised $10,000 each for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Cancer Center, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, which is a hospital in the Baltimore, Maryland area that helps kids with brain and spinal cord injuries; kids with autism and Down’s syndrome that hospital helps them to get acclimated to society. Then we raised $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation because we wanted to establish a track record with Scares That Care to show we do give back, that horror fans do give back to the community and those three organizations are pretty well known organizations. So when somebody says ‘John Hopkins Children’s Cancer Center’ they’ll go ‘Oh I know exactly who you’re talking about.’ However since we got our 501(c) (3) it’s doesn’t make sense to me to raise the money and give it to another 501(c) (3) organization for them to distribute. So what we’ve done this year is that we’ve actually went out and found three families. Being a former police detective and police officer there are some questions that you have to go through and sometimes you have to ask hard questions because we need to make sure that if horror fans are donating to this charity that the money is going to go and be used for what the intent of the donation is to be used for, if that makes sense. So in other words we need to make sure that the money is going to go to actually help. Sometimes that’s difficult but they are questions that have to be asked. You know a lot of times now we’re starting to get people that are contacting me directly and asking for donations. It’s hard because you want to help; but recognizing the fact that if we actually help them it would take away from the families that we’re working for. So we basically have to establish a waiting list, as it were, so that we can form a game plan to help other people as needed.

Okay. I was looking at the Scares website a little while ago and the latest thing that you have up there is concerning the house fire involving Delmer McNeil and his 6 year-old son Tripp. I understand that Delmer did in fact pass away from his injuries.

That’s what I’m hearing as well, yes.

Can you give a little more detail about what happened so that my readers can be made more aware of the circumstances?

Well, it’s a situation where I’m getting this information third-hand. One of the things that we needed to do to satisfy the agreement between Kane Hodder and us was to locate a young man or young woman that’s been severely burned. So, I heard about it. It’s a friend of the family who gave me the information. I do know where Tripp is currently staying in the hospital. I believe its Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Other than that I do know for a fact that the house completely burned all the way down to the foundation and that the family lost absolutely everything. While Tripp’s father, Delmer McNeil was in the hospital he got very, very sick and they ended up having to amputate both of his arms at the elbow; and then shortly after that he did pass away. The last I heard Tripp was going through skin grafts and he was telling his mother that he wanted to go home. So once we do find out where he lives we’re going to making a trip with a check for $10,000.

The thing about me is that if I don’t know something I’m going to be the first one to step up and say ‘I don’t know.’ I think that if you try to BS horror fans they’re going to pick up on it right away and you’re going to lose all credibility.

Exactly. Now what would a horror fan or fans or anyone else for that matter need to do if they wanted to help with Tripp and his situation?

Basically, they can do a couple of things. They can send a donation via PayPal. The address is If they can’t remember the address we have a PayPal button right there on our website; and all they have to do is just say that they would like their donation to go to Tripp. If they don’t have PayPal they can call directly with a credit card and I can take a credit card donation over the phone. I do it that way because I want people speaking directly to me. I don’t write anything down. I use Intuit on the computer to type in all the information and then after that it’s done and they get a receipt for their donation.

A lot of times what we have to access as a charity is what is the greatest need of the three families that we’re trying to help? Now all three families are going to wind up getting a donation from us this year of $10,000. It’s just a matter of is it Draven? Is it Maddy who’s fighting breast cancer? Or is it Tripp who basically lost everything? He lost his father, lost his house, the whole nine yards. So I’m proud to say that hopefully that by the end of March, beginning of April we will have raised our first $10,000. Then we will make an effort to track Tripp down and provide his family with that relief.

That’s fantastic. Can you tell a little more about Maddy and Draven?

Draven was born with a congenital heart defect known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Basically what that means is that everybody knows that your heart has four chambers; the right side and the left side. Basically the left side of his heart never developed. So he only has the two chambers which are on the right side of his heart that are actually functioning. He’s on a transplant list and he does need a heart transplant. If he doesn’t get his heart transplant the outlook is not very good. This disease he has is extremely serious and he is on the waiting list for a new heart. Unfortunately with him being a small child it’s going to have to come at a loss to another family. We recognize that and we realize that it’s a situation that we need to focus on Draven and that we need to take care of Draven to the best of our ability.

Maddy has been fighting breast cancer for a number of years and it has actually caused some degenerative loss in some nerves and she’s in constant pain as a result of that. You know, all three of these families are basically going through hell. It’s just a matter of people can always sit back and say ‘Well there’s nothing we can do’ or ‘Here, I’ll just send them ten bucks.’ I don’t think that way. I think that it’s incumbent upon myself to stand up and physically do something in order to put my foot down and say ‘No, you know what? Something more has got to be done.’ With that we’ve actually expanded Scares That Care to encompass what we call state representatives. These state representatives are all volunteers and we now have 39 state representatives in 26 states across the country and more are being added monthly. It’s important that we do that because eventually what I want to do is I want to take Scares That Care and instead of helping three families across the country each year I want to help three families in each state each year. That’s what I want to do. Will I ever get there? I hope so. I believe that it’s possible, but I think that we can only do it with a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and a lot of help from our volunteers and from horror fans all around the world.

Do you set up booths at the horror film conventions for the Scares That Care organization?

Yes we do. Last year we attended three horror conventions. We attended the Horrorfind Weekend Convention, we attended the National Horrors Convention and we attended the Horror Realm Convention in Pittsburgh. Since we got our 501(c) (3) and since we got the state representatives on board and department heads we’re now attending 28 conventions across the country this year. We are really trying to insure that everybody knows we’re here. The economy’s tough, I get that. It’s just as important for me to have somebody that say’s to me ‘Hey Joe, I can’t help you out this month. Moneys tight, But what can I do?’ My message is if you see us post something up, just share it on Facebook or whatever. Let your friends know about us. Things like that.

People walk up and they donate thirty dollars. My assessment of that thirty dollars is this: a person who comes up to us and writes a check and gives us a check for $3000.00 can afford to write that check. A person who comes up to us and gives us twenty bucks, thirty bucks probably can’t afford to give us that money. But they’re doing it because they have a good heart. So to me that twenty or thirty dollars is just as important as that $3000.00 check and probably even more so because it’s not every day where you see multi-millionaires who are big, huge horror fans. If they are I hope they hear about us soon because we could use their help. But we really just appreciate anything anybody can do for us to help either spread the word or to help the families.

Joe, is there anything that you want to say to my readers about Scares That Care?

The only thing I’ll say is that while all charities are good; I believe that all charities do some good. It’s incumbent upon your readers to know that Scares That Care does not have any salaries and that we don’t give out any paychecks. One hundred per cent of the money that comes in goes to the families that we’re trying to support. So there’s a lot of stuff in the news these days about how much CEO’s are being paid out of charities and things like that. I still have a full time day job. I do the charity in my spare time as best I can. I want this to be a charity that not only horror fans but people in general can be proud of and say ‘I support this charity because I know that my money is going to go to one of those three families.’

The ones that you said donate the twenty dollars or the thirty dollars even though they don’t have it I can completely understand. My wife and I are on a fairly tight budget. This interview is my way of getting people aware of Scares That Care and to be able to help in one way or another.

Do you mainly focus on children with diseases or do you plan to expand to children who have been molested or abused or suffered other such cruelties?

Well, here’s my thought on that and that’s a very good question and it has been asked of us quite a bit. When you diversify the charity into too many different areas of assistance basically what happens is that it thins out the amount of donations that are coming in to you. For example; if we chose child abuse or if we chose three or four other things to help with it would actually take us longer to reach our goals and by doing that all of the families would then suffer. So what you have to take into consideration is that there are other programs out there that can help. I just have a very strong affinity for wanting to help sick kids. I’ve seen a number of sick kids and was actually the pallbearer for my partner in the police department who had lost his four year-old daughter. So I was a pallbearer for her and that was something that struck me very, very deeply. So when we initially came up with Scares That Care it was specifically designed to help sick kids and those kids being seriously or terminally ill to be able to help the families with the financial burdens that they’re facing with that type of disease or illness.

When Kane contacted us that was a stipulation from Kane’s camp that we needed to create a separate fund for the burn victims; and then you can’t watch any horror film from the 1980’s forward where there’s not at least some topless nudity in the horror film. So I wanted to be able to pay back to those women who as a result of having to do the topless nudity by being able to assist them with the breast cancer as well.

It’s been a struggle trying to fund all three of those programs. So I don’t foresee us right now branching off. However, I’m not ruling it out. Because as the charity grows and we get more funds we may be able to locate a children’s home that supports kids that have been abused or suffered some other similar injury and maybe we can just walk in and make a flat out donation right to that house. So it’s something that we’re not ruling out. It’s just something that from the standpoint of it being a business that we want to be able to fulfill those goals to those families that we selected. So we can’t spread ourselves too thin as it were trying to help too many different causes. Does that make sense?

Yes, it does. I don’t how many people are aware of why Kane Hodder is so supportive of children that have been badly burned; but he was in an accident as a stuntman that burned a large portion of his body.

Yeah, he was burned on 40% of his body.

So I can understand why he would want to help. Also, everything I have heard about him is that he is just one of the nicest people and has one of the biggest hearts. I was on his website and I was reading stories about him and he sounds like just a gentle giant of a man.

I don’t know if you’ve read his book, but it talks about how he was bullied as a child and everything like that. You know what the sad part of it is? They contacted different burn units all around the country and I was told by Mike Aloisi, the writer, that they wanted to partner with Kane and once they found out who he was and what he did, (Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th), they didn’t want to work with him anymore.

That is completely ridiculous. 

It’s completely ridiculous, but I’m glad they said no because that basically opened the door for Kane to work with Scares That Care. That’s a mother thing that I’m really trying to do with this charity, John, is that I’m trying to show the world that just because we like the things that go bump in the night doesn’t mean that we care any less about sick kids or when they’re going through these issues. That in fact we probably care more; because we can separate the difference between what we see on the screen and what we know is true in real life.

Great. Joe, I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview.

Thank you, John

You’re welcome. Thank you.


Would you like to help? There will be a link at Written in Blood that will take you directly to the Scares That Care homepage. From there you can make a donation via PayPal, or by credit card over the telephone as Joe instructed. Thank you. Take care and stay scared, everybody!