Black and orange balloons, tissue paper ghosts, stuffed black trash bags doubling as creepy cats. And candy – lots of candy.
This is what crowded the arts and crafts table last Wednesday as children prepared for their much-anticipated Halloween party at the Norris Homes Community, located at 11th and Berks streets. In an effort to keep kids safe during Halloween, neighborhood centers have come up with trick-or-treat alternatives.
The Norris Homes Community after-school program has been successful in its efforts. Halloween for these kids isn’t about spooky ghost costumes and going from home to home to show off creative Halloween attire. When it comes down to it, Halloween is all about getting together with friends and comparing costumes.
Lisa Gass, the site coordinator for the Norris Homes’ after school program, said she loves planning the Halloween party for the kids.
“No, these kids aren’t going trick-or-treating,” Gaas said. “There’s too much going on around here for that, but the Halloween party should be enough. We provide the candy, music, games and snacks. What more could a small kid ask for?”
While some of the kids come dressed up in either homemade or store-bought costumes, others who don’t aren’t out of luck.
“I usually buy face paint and let the older kids paint the younger ones’ [faces] so they don’t feel left out,” Gaas said.
Kaleel Brown, an 8-year-old boy from the after-school program, said he hadn’t yet picked out an outfit for the festivities, but has Batman in mind. He decorated his paper plate jack-o-lantern and expressed his anticipation for Wednesday’s party.
“I think the party will be fun because we will get candy and get to wear cool costumes,” Kaleel said.
The extent of Kaleel’s celebrating ends at community celebrations like this.
“My mom won’t let me go trick-or-treating because she said there’s too much going on in the streets,” he said.
Ghosts and goblins are not the only things kids have to worry about while out on the streets during Halloween. Peter Hecht, president of Philly Walks and an adjunct architecture professor at Temple, said there are many dangers plaguing the streets after-hours that kids may not be aware of.
“Children may not be aware of their surroundings [while out walking the streets], especially during Halloween,” Hecht said. “Kids are wearing costumes that may be dark, are usually walking while it’s dark out with groups of other kids, and this could be a recipe for disaster.”
Hecht said he knows Halloween is important to the kids, and therefore offers these tips to the trick-or-treat pedestrians.
“Kids should wear brighter color costumes, refrain from using their cell phones while walking through the streets because it limits their alertness, and, if possible, they should be accompanied by an adult,” Hecht said.
For kids who can’t deny the urge to go trick-or-treating, Treats on the Avenue is one event that should satisfy their Halloween appetites. Beech Community Services, on 15th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, came up with the idea when the members realized the lack of participation from the neighbors on Halloween.
“Either the stores would close before kids got out of school or the people in the neighborhood just wouldn’t give out candy, so the kids had no place else to go,” said Christine Brown, office manager of the service center.
This is the first year for Treats on the Ave., and the mission is to provide local stores with ample amounts of candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Brown bought bags of candy and gave it out to grocery stores lining Cecil B. Moore from Broad to 17th streets.
Some employees from Beech Community Service Center have volunteered to keep watch on the avenue for this evening to ensure the children’s safety. Philadelphia? Temple? Officer [first name] Dickson, patrolling the 23rd district, is also getting involved to further beef up security.
“We are hoping that through Treats on the Ave., local businesses and neighbors will want to get involved for Halloween,” Brown said. “We want it to be a safe environment for trick-or-treating because when it comes down to it, this night is all about the kids.”
Kendra Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.