Martz: Halloween and the spirit of giving

Paulina Martz, Staff Columnist

As Halloween approached (and then flew by), I found myself thinking more than usual about the holiday on this campus. Amidst the Black Friday-esque mad dash at Party City three minutes before close, I stopped and processed how different my Halloween experiences have been since coming to college. 

Of course, in elementary school and middle school, Halloween was a different experience, but once I hit high school, Halloween transitioned from a time to dress up and get tons of candy into an opportunity to give back. There were always coat drives and opportunities to sponsor Halloween activities at local charities and programs for kids. But most notably, we begged for cans.

My sophomore year of high school was the first time I went begging for cans. A group of students went around and left flyers in mailboxes beforehand, as a sort of courtesy, so that people weren’t stunned when we knocked on their door and requested a can of beans instead of the Twix Bar they were offering. 

Then, on trick-or-treat night, the students sort-of, kind-of dressed up (I went as a Sim—street clothes and a diamond on a headband—more years than not) and went through the neighborhood in groups begging for cans. Often times, school service programs offered a reward for the group that collected the most cans. 

My senior year of high school, we filled up the entire trunk of a car with cans and got a voucher for free pizza—and still got full bags of candy. It’s a good compromise on the whole “the candy is for the children” principle, in that most people will offer you a piece of candy if you come to their door during Halloween asking for food for a soup kitchen. 

It strikes me as odd—spooky, even—that there isn’t an initiative like that here on campus. Or, if there is one, I haven’t heard about it in my three years here. There’s plenty of children’s charities and groups in the immediate area that I’m sure would benefit strongly from donations, and I know people who have been trick-or-treating in surrounding neighborhoods. 

Most people focus on November and December as the “giving months” between Thanksgiving and Salvation Army Santa Clauses, holding toy drives and sponsoring a child for the holidays.  It is very easy to look at Halloween as solely a party holiday—especially in college, when 90 percent of the activities include dressing up, going out and being able to act in ways you usually wouldn’t. But amidst the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Halloween parties, there is a gap on campus, and it’s an easy one to fill. So I encourage you to think about begging for cans next year, or encourage your club, Greek organization or other werewolf pack of students to sponsor a can drive or other philanthropy event in the SPIRIT of giving.

If you want to look back at this article as a sort of guide, then I’ll remind you that the Greater Cleveland Food Bank lists beef stew, canned soup, canned vegetables, canned tuna, peanut butter and cereal as their most needed food items. Donating to them is super easy—no appointment needed, just drop off your cans at their closest location. There is also a wealth of information on how to get started on the Hunger Network’s website. 

We should all make an effort to incorporate service into our lives, and not just in November and December. I know we’re all incredibly busy this time of year, but if you’re thinking about trick-or-treating, it doesn’t hurt to go around begging for cans and picking up some candy on the side. And if you’re having a Halloween-based event,  try to incorporate some philanthropy into it. Raffle off tickets to your Halloween show or haunted house and have proceeds go to a charity that sponsors coats for children as the days grow colder. Skeleton fingers crossed for next year, happy Halloween.