LIVINGSTON, NJ — Matt Berger, a Livingston High School sophomore with a passion for Halloween, has paired his passion with his talent for building to create a unique fundraiser benefiting Friendship Circle New Jersey.
Berger works year-round to construct elaborate decorations for his front-yard display, which consists of ghosts, ghouls, zombies, wooden figures, inflatables, floodlights, fog machines, animatronics and other items. This year, he constructed a seven-foot wood skull, an eight-foot wood house, dozens of wood cutouts, fences for a graveyard, three new figures to bring his total to 16 and more.
As a child, Berger said he was inspired by the neighborhood Halloween decorations and was determined to have the best display in front of his own home. The teen was only seven years old when he began collecting and displaying decorations.
“I started with dollar store decorations and worked my way up to building my decorations from wood, PVC pipe, plastic and other various supplies,” he said. “Every year, I add new props and decorations.”
Proving that he is extremely dedicated to his decorations, Berger explained that he devoted nearly 75 hours this month alone to building in his workshop and organizing this year’s display. Throughout the year, he spends approximately 100 to 200 hours in his workshop perfecting the display.
“About 70 percent of my display is homemade,” said Berger, who also spent more than 26 hours setting it up on the lawn. “I build and set up my display by myself.”
The talented builder has also lent his skills to Livingston’s Camuso Collection Preservation Committee for the last five years, assisting in both building and setting up the popular display at the Livingston Memorial Oval.
Berger said he couldn’t resist joining the Camuso decorations team because the Camuso display was “originally located at a house around the corner” from his own, and he always “loved all the decorations.”
Although he also enjoys building various wood projects, such as furniture, Berger said his favorite creations are holiday-themed. In the future, Berger hopes to “have a job involving tools” and plans to continue building “as a hobby.”
The teen reported that he learned and honed his building skills from YouTube videos and experimenting with tools. Tom Cooney, Chief Elf of the Camuso holiday display committee, also mentored Berger to help him master certain tools.
This year, Berger has decided to utilize his Halloween display for a good cause. On Halloween, he will leave a donation box on his lawn for visitors in order to raise money for Friendship Circle, a local organization that offers programs and services to individuals with special needs.
“I hope to raise money for this charity in future years as well,” said Berger. “The money will be used to help children with disabilities.”
The public is invited to visit Berger's display at 9 Langtree Drive in Livingston. The donation box will be available on Halloween from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and the display will remain open until Nov. 1 at 10 p.m.
Berger asks that trick-or-treaters enjoy the display, but refrain from ringing the doorbell on days other than Halloween.
Those who cannot visit but would like to contribute in other ways are invited to contact Berger at email@example.com.