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Kandiyohi County fair features Dr. Bloodborne’s Laboratory

Willmar Nite Lions President James Rhoades navigates through a pair of “dead bodies” in Dr. Bloodborne’s Laboratory. (JACOB BELGUM | TRIBUNE)1 / 2
Kandiyohi County fair-goers can walk through a roughly four-minute maze of face-devouring zombies and other beasts in Dr. Bloodborne’s lair starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Admission costs $5 or $3 with a donation of glasses or shoes. (JACOB BELGUM | TRIBUNE)2 / 2

WILLMAR — Haunted houses induce a temporary fright, but eye maladies can permanently change lives.

Members of a newly formed service organization — the Willmar Nite Lions — hope that by spooking people, they can raise enough money to identify and curb optical issues for children in Minnesota.

Their haunted house is part of the Kandiyohi County Fair for the first time this year. It opens at 6 p.m.

all four nights of the fair Wednesday through Saturday in exhibit building 2, and patrons who pay $5 — or $3 if they donate a pair of glasses or shoes — can walk through the roughly four-minute maze of face-devouring zombies and other beasts.

While some would rather pay $5 to stay out of Dr. Bloodborne’s Laboratory, those who enter will be supporting the purchase of a Spot Vision Screener. The screener is a camera which, according to Nite Lions President James Rhoades, can detect a myriad of eye defects, such as basic vision impairments, potential blindness and cancer.

“To the best of our research, there’s not a device like this that can be offered for free eye exams,” Rhoades said. “The camera is actually needed in the area.”

After expenses — notably a rental and advertising fee paid to the Kandiyohi County Fair — 100 percent of haunted house profits will go toward the camera, which costs an estimated $8,000. Rhoades and a small team of Nite Lions have toiled for three months assembling the venue, and their near-obsessive goal — obtaining the camera — keeps them motivated.

“When we first started building all this, I’d go to work, as soon as I got off work, I’d go home, change (and) I’d come out here,” Nite Lion member Edward DeMichael said.

Rhoades said he works on the house three to four days per week in five-hour increments. He said that DeMichael has put in many 30-hour weeks to help with the house’s construction.

“He’s out there almost every single day,” Rhoades said.

The group has organized two fundraisers at Pizza Ranch and has manned the concession stand at six Stingers games.

The Nite Lions hope to partner with Willmar preschools to make sure every child in town receives an eye exam. The results would be sent home to parents on a printout, and, according to Rhoades, an estimated 20 percent of children would then be advised to schedule an appointment with an opthamologist who would diagnose exactly what’s wrong.

Hopefully their fate is less sinister than that of the people who willingly waltz into Dr. Bloodborne’s Laboratory.

When walkers enter the haunted house, an FBI agent explains that they are new recruits on a mission to observe and report on assumed illegal human experimentation. They must avoid getting caught. Well, Dr. Bloodborne immediately discovers them, and horror ensues. For further details, dip into your wallet for the $5.

The house’s storyline is a sequel to Z-Mart, a zombie tale told in October 2014 at a vacant space in the Kandi Strip Mall. That event was a fundraiser for the Willmar Noon Lions. Rhoades volunteered with the Z-Mart production and figured he could do something similar to raise funds for a project of his own devising.

The Willmar Noon Lions already help provide free eye exams and glasses for disadvantaged children in the Willmar area, but the Nite Lions plan to extend that goal to meet a larger audience, examining masses of young children with their camera instead of a few.

As the name suggests, the Willmar Noon Lions meet during the day, and prospective lions who work during that time could not attend those meetings. So Rhoades began the Nite Lions.

Both clubs belong to Lions International and are committed to bettering the community, they simply meet at different times.

“Both clubs would actually benefit the area in their own way,” Rhoades said.

So, Rhoades thinks that, in a sense, by coming to the Kandiyohi County Fair and embracing fear, clubless people can help benefit their community, too.

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