Have you ever thought to yourself “I’d like to make a difference but I don’t know how to do it.”? Nate Cornell didn’t! Nate, age 11, ran his own haunted house this Halloween, raising over $500 to benefit life-saving prostate cancer research.

The Cornell boys, Nate (11), Ben (12), Zach (9), and Nick (8) lost their grandfather, Bopa Bill, to prostate cancer almost 7 years ago. Nate was young, but he remembers his grandpa as the kind of guy who would physically get up and play with the boys. “He would also tell the best scary stories,” says Nate, “so a Haunted House was a great way to honor him.”

It wasn’t the Cornell’s first haunted house – brother Ben had run the haunted house a few times before to benefit PCF. But Ben was too busy to do it this year, and that did not work well for Nate: “It was really important to me to keep the tradition going because it was super fun to do and it has been our way to honor my grandpa, so I stepped up to run the show. It’s important to find a cure so that other people won’t lose their family members like I did.”

But being a young fundraiser can be a challenge, says Nate. “It’s a lot of work for my whole family to get out garage and basement all cleaned out and decorated for the Haunted House every year.  Plus, there are always costs for supplies and refreshments. I promised my parents I’d do all the work and pay for the overhead. So, they said yes. “

Nate’s mother, Lori Cornell, has nothing but praise for how the event unfolded: “We are so proud of Nate. He worked really hard to make this year’s Haunted House such a success in memory of his Grandpa Bill. His leadership skills and commitment to see this effort through were just amazing to witness. But most importantly, Nate gave our whole family an opportunity to remember and honor someone we miss dearly in our lives. I couldn’t have had a more special father-in-law. For the short time Bill was in their young lives, he touched their hearts and minds forever. “

At PCF, we often hear from individuals who want to help raise money, but don’t know where to begin. Nate Cornell is such a fine example of what happens when you commit, and dig in, to a cause. Through Nate’s leadership, it became a true community effort. He says: “I wanted our guests to have a special experience.  Lots of family members and friends helped….my parents, brothers, aunt, uncle and cousins, neighbors and friends…and they all donated too.  My Grandma Peg was especially happy to help because she misses my Grandpa Bill.  It took me about a week to get the Haunted House all set up. A friend who has been helping us each year and owns an events company, built the major structure. His name is Scott Mekus.  During the Haunted House itself, we had about 10 people doing the scares and other family members and friends doing concessions. My dad did the electricity and greeted all the guests. My mom was the guide.“ Other community members also stepped up and donated elements, such as the Labyrinth Coffee House, Wegmans, Tops, and Lena’s Pizza.

For anyone out there who doubts their ability to pull something like this off, Nate offers only this advice: “You can do anything you put your mind to!”

Want to start your own fundraiser? Visit manyvscancer.org to learn more.