Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trick or Treat for Good

With one notable exception, Halloween has traditionally been about getting, not giving. That exception began 60 years ago, when a mom in Philadelphia had the idea to turn the getting into something bigger. With nothing more than a desire to see change, Mary Emma Alison spread the word through schools, churches and community groups, encouraging kids to collect pennies that would go toward food, medicine and other needs of poor children around the world through UNICEF (the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund).

Her efforts were noticed by UNICEF, which eventually took over the campaign.

President John F. Kennedy recognized the willingness of children to move beyond self-interest:

"UNICEF has caught the imagination of our people-especially our nation's children whose Halloween collections have become a symbol of concern and an expression of tangible aid."

Children still can collect for UNICEF, but in addition, there are a number of other ways in which they can turn Halloween into a good-for-others event.

For instance, kids can collect eye glasses. Organized by OneSight and Lions Clubs, Sight Night is a non-traditional way to go door-to-door for good. Instead of trick-or-treating for candy, children and community groups collect used prescription glasses as well as sunglasses which are then recycled for usage by global clinics. Click here for more information and download materials for Sight Night.

Do your kids have allergies? The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network's Trick or Treat for Food Allergy is an alternative way for kids of all ages to have fun during Halloween. Instead of trick-or-treating for candy, which may contain ingredients that can cause allergic reactions, kids will trick-or-treat for donations to fund FAAN's food allergy education and research programs. This way, they can dress up as their favorite characters while raising awareness to an important cause. Participating kids can even win cool prizes.

Older children may want to raise awareness of Fair Trade Certified chocolate and help end abusive child labor conditions in the cocoa industry. If so, they can try "reverse" trick-or-treating with Global Exchange. Instead of accepting candy (or in addition), they will hand out Fair Trade chocolate and/or informational cards on why supporting Fair Trade practices in the cocoa industry is a year around must.

And finally, with kids bringing home pounds of candy, most parents won't allow them to eat it all. Instead of tossing the loot, check with the Halloween Buy Back program to see if your local dentists are listed. Participating dentists pay children $1 for each pound they bring in. Kids can keep the money or use it to help defray the cost of sending collected candy to troops overseas.

If dentists in your area are not participating, see whether your local food pantry or Meals-on-Wheels might accept the treats.
This Halloween, why not take the focus off collecting as much candy as possible and offer your child the opportunity to be generous. That idea is anything but scary!

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors ofCelebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at

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