AIA students help local children trick or treat

Architecture students helped build a virtual Halloween world for young children.

Candice Vanderhorst led fellow students in the creation of “Spookytown” through AIA. | Skyler Burkhart TTN
Candice Vanderhorst led fellow students in the creation of “Spookytown” through AIA. | Skyler Burkhart TTN
[vimeo 77457873 w=750h=400]

Seeing a smile spread across an at-risk preschooler’s face is enough for Candice Vanderhorst to feel accomplished in the work she does.

After her second year of working with the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center to create a safe environment for children in the Philadelphia area to trick or treat and celebrate Halloween, senior architecture major Vanderhorst said she wanted to be given more responsibility.

This year, she’s leading her fellow students in their involvement.

Vanderhorst said she got Temple involved in the project two years ago when she was the event coordinator of the American Institute of Architecture Students.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to get students to work with professionals and also help children who really need it,” she said.

Each year, the AIA in Philadelphia sponsors a series of events called “Spooktacular,” and “Spookytown,” a structure built to provide an alternative trick or treating experience for at-risk children, is one of them, available to children on Oct. 26.

Junior architecture major and general business studies minor Jenna Wandishin is president of the American Institute of Architecture Students. This will be her second year participating in the event.

Wandishin said she hopes to see the chapter grow and see students enjoy their involvement.

After two years of experience within the chapter, Vanderhorst said she had seen the positivity promoted by Spookytown and wanted to be more involved. She talked to the former co-coordinator of the event and agreed to be the new co-coordinator this year, along with professional interior designer Melissa Meyer.

Vanderhorst said her goal is for this year’s Spookytown to be one of the most successful and highly attended to date. This year marks the event’s 10th anniversary.

Spookytown will take place at the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center’s new offices on Columbus Boulevard with a riverfront view.

This new location is in a more positive environment and the building itself is bigger and brighter, with more windows and an altogether better facility, Vanderhorst said. More children have been attending the facility than before the new location was established.

Vanderhorst said she is expecting somewhere between 70 to 90 children to attend Spookytown.

“The 10th year anniversary is definitely special, although this will only be my second year participating,” Wandishin said. “It’s nice to know that young children can have a safe trick-or-treating experience, and we get to have fun making Spookytown for them, too.”

The event is held for at-risk preschoolers from ages three to five who live in unsafe neighborhoods or are in troubled families, Luise Moskowitz, media relations representative for the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, said.

Children can zig-zag through corridors of Halloween decorations and collect candy. After the trick or treat experience takes place, the children arrive in a room with a photo booth, balloon animals, a magician, face painting and a variety of food, Moskowitz said. As her personal touch on the ending festivities, Vanderhorst will hand out white tote bags for the children to color. In years past, the children have colored white T-shirts.

Funding for Spookytown is generated by sponsors from businesses around Philadelphia.

These sponsors receive ad space in the form of T-shirts and other publicity opportunities, depending on how much is donated.

All of the spookery was set up on Oct. 19 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., when architecture students from Temple, Drexel and surrounding high schools meet.

These students split into groups and are given 8-by-4-inch panels and free rein to create child-appropriate Halloween scenes from a variety of materials, including fabric, glue and staples. Each of the panels has a hole cut out for volunteers to hand out candy to the children as they make their way through the maze. The boards created on Oct. 19 will then be moved to the office of the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center to set up the night before Spookytown.

“I usually miss the Homecoming football game every year to set up for the event, but I don’t regret it,” Vanderhorst said. “When October rolls around, I get really excited knowing Spookytown is right around the corner.”

Kristi Fidler can be reached at

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