We are proud of our Kleen Team’s efforts to give back to the community, and before Halloween, we are spotlighting a member’s fundraiser for Make-A-Wish that he has coordinated since 2021.
Is Halloween your favorite holiday? Well, meet Senior Project Manager Walter Gesford, who loves Halloween and goes beyond just decorating his yard. With the help of family and friends, two years ago he started a haunted hayride and trail that begins as a kid-friendly event with treats being handed out, then turns into a jump-scare fright fest when the sun goes down.
Walter, who oversees three contracts at two Northern Virginia facilities, has been with Mister Kleen since 2018. The native of Sayre, Pennsylvania, graduated with a bachelor’s in business administration from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and was deciding where he’d go to start his career.
“I did honestly choose here because I’m a football fanatic and love the Commanders,” he says.
He managed a security contract in Quantico for eight years and earned an MBA before joining Mister Kleen on Oct. 22, 2018, as a night manager. He was promoted to his current position in March 2019 and says, “I enjoy working for a family-owned and operated business, and I enjoy being able to work with employees from top to bottom – owners, and technicians.”
After he and his wife, Hillary, purchased 18 acres in the Stafford area, they realized there was no big Halloween event in the area. So he partnered with a neighbor who owned 40 acres, and together they created a 0.8-mile trail on both wooded properties that comprise Justin’s Haunted Hayride.
“It’s named after a cousin of mine who passed away from cancer. He got a trip to Disney World from the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Walter says. He pays for the majority of the expenses and volunteers donate their time so that all of the proceeds go directly to Make-A-Wish.
In 2021, they were able to donate $1,800 and last year they donated $1,500 to Make-A-Wish. This will be the third straight year for the one-day event, which takes place the Saturday before Halloween, on Oct. 28.
It’s a big effort, and he and his best friend, Kevin Vanhorn, who also works at Mister Kleen, begin preparing for the event months in advance. This year’s theme will include horror classics, such as Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Scream, as well as some new ones, he says.
It’s a family affair for the Gesford family, with his wife, Hillary, and kids Tate and Leo joining in the fun. “They actually dressed up in costumes last year and were out in the woods scaring people as they came by,” he says.
Walter could always use more volunteers to dress in costume and help scare guests in the woods, or if you’d like to support the cause, you can donate directly, which some Kleen Team members have done in the past. To learn more or to purchase tickets to the event at $20 per person, you can email Walter at [email protected].