History, ghost stories and folklore on tap in Salem

From left, Brian Whitehill, Jillian Pieren, Paige Whitehill, Mallory Hudson, Shannon Whitehill and David Whitehill gather on the stage at the Salem Waterworth Memorial Park Orashan Band Shell where they’ll present a skit of ghost stories for the Eyes for Olivia 2021 History Walk Sunday. This year’s event offers a new twist, with music, local folklore and ghost stories on the stage beginning at 7 p.m., preceded at 6 p.m. by self-guided walking tours through Historic Hope Cemetery where visitors can learn about some notable past residents of Salem. Donations will be accepted. Register online via the Eyes for Olivia Facebook page or just show up the day of the event. (Photo courtesy of Kim Hoffman)

SALEM — Local residents can learn a little history of Salem, hear ghost stories and local folklore and help a good cause during the Eyes for Olivia 2021 History Walk on Sunday at Waterworth Memorial Park.

There’s a new twist for the event this year. Visitors can pick up a booklet and stroll through Historic Hope Cemetery on a self-guided tour to learn about past Salem residents beginning at 6 p.m. Then they can bring a lawn chair to the Orashan Band Shell to hear some music, local folklore and ghost stories beginning at 7 p.m.

Organizer Kim Hoffman, of Eyes for Olivia, said this allows attendees to spread out since the world is still in a pandemic, plus they can tour the cemetery stops at their own pace.

All proceeds benefit the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation. The Hoffman family organized Eyes for Olivia more than 10 years ago as a conduit for fundraising for the CRBF, which funds research towards treatment and a cure for CRB1-related retinal disease. Kim and her husband Mike joined the group comprised of parents of children diagnosed with the disease after their daughter Olivia was diagnosed at age 4. She’s now 16 and a student at Salem High School.

“All of this work the foundation does comes from these little events our families put on,” Kim said.

She now serves as CRBF treasurer and said their family alone has raised well over $100,000 with various events such as the history walks, quarter auction and other fundraisers. The CRBF is funding national history studies to track the duration of the disease which can eventually cause blindness and funds research projects, such as one at Columbia University on gene editing. People can learn more at www.crb1.org.

As for Olivia, Kim said she’s doing well. Her vision loss hasn’t progressed, but she does have some visual impairment and is starting to lose some color recognition.

For the event, donations will be accepted. People can register through the Eyes for Olivia Facebook page or they can just show up the day of the event. There will be apple cider available, but people can bring their own snacks if they wish for the storytelling at the band shell.

Jeff Noble will kick things off with some music, then the local folklore stories will begin and will include pictures projected on a screen. Rick Haldi, who played characters during previous history walks, wrote the stories. He’ll be one of the presenters, along with Kathy Leguard and Denise Sculli and Terry Shears. A skit of ghost stories will be presented last by the Whitehill family, Brian, Shannon, Paige and David, along with Jillian Pieren and Mallory Hudson.

Comfortable shoes are suggested for the history walk which will include 15 stops detailed in the guide booklet and marked with signs. Some of the stops will include abolitionists, soldiers, citizens who participated in the Underground Railroad and other interesting former residents of Salem. Members of the Salem Historical Society helped with the walk booklet.

Parking will be available off of Sunset Boulevard or Superior Avenue. The event will take place rain or shine.

“Thank you to all of our sponsors and to city Parks Director Shane Franks,” Kim said.

Gold sponsors include Radix Management, Bob and Linda Sebo, Canfield Lions Club, SSB CPAs. Silver sponsors are Beard Pension Services, Mackall Optometry, Mullen Insurance Solutions and BOC Water Hydraulics. Walk sponsors include Salem AMVETS Post 45, Rich and Carol Yeager, BB Rooners, Essential Vision Care and Yerkey & Madjarac DDS Inc.


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