LIVINGSTON, NJ — Matt Berger, Livingston High School junior and Halloween decorator extraordinaire, has added four new handmade figures and 20 new wooden cutouts to his annual holiday display in addition to a donation box that prompts visitors to contribute to his effort to support local first responders.

For the first time last year, Berger placed a donation box in his increasingly popular Halloween display at 9 Langtree Drive and ultimately raised $1,000 for The Friendship Circle—a local nonprofit organization that offers programs and services to individuals with special needs.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Berger has selected those on the front lines as the benefactors of his 2020 Halloween collection.

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“This year, I hope to double that donation and help out the people who put their lives at risk every day to help others,” said Berger. “I know how much effort the first responders [put into their jobs], especially during COVID, and I want to thank them for their hard work.”

Berger’s Halloween tradition began in 2010, when he was a seven-year-old boy purchasing dollar store decorations. His passion for decorating on this particular holiday has evolved into a Halloween extravaganza filled with unique and dramatic decorations that he personally builds and improves upon year-round.

Berger grew up around the corner from the Camuso family, whose elaborate Christmas decoration collection drew visitors from near and far each year and has since been relocated to the Memorial Oval.

For the last seven years, Berger has been volunteering more than 250 hours with the Camuso Holiday Display Committee each year, repairing the figures and assisting with set up. According to Berger, Head Elf Tom Cooney has served as a crucial mentor to him, teaching him a great deal about building and carving.

Also inspired by two other neighbors who have had lively Halloween displays over the years, Berger knew early on that he wanted to create and share a festive Halloween array of his own.

"At this point, setting up for Halloween is not a hobby, but it is a commitment and a passion," said Berger, who is determined not to let the pandemic ruin his Halloween spirit. “I make new props and decorations each year so that I can make everyone happy, and so that the display is more filled with decorations.”

In his spare time, Berger also runs his own Adirondack chair business and practices his handiwork as an employee at Fred’s Small Engine Repairs in Livingston.

Once he turns 18, Berger plans to join the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department because he “loves to help people.”

Berger also occasionally sells some of his Halloween figures to people who want to decorate their own front yards.

This year’s spotlights and inflatables will be turned on every night through the end of the month for all to enjoy from the sidewalk or their vehicles.

On Halloween Night, Oct. 31, the donation box will be outside from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Berger has also devised a contactless trick-or-treating system with more than eight feet of distancing.

“This year, trick-or-treating at 9 Langtree Drive will be different, but will still give the enjoyment and excitement for people when they see the display,” he said.

Those who are unable to visit the display in person but would like to donate should contact Berger at matthewberger03@gmail.com.

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