Photo by Stephen Anzaldi
Every fall for the past 12 years, Northwestern's Norris University Center is overrun with ghosts, clowns and princesses. And it’s not a gang of theatre majors. It's Project Pumpkin.
Young children from Evanston and Chicago have found a safe, centralized and supervised outlet for their Halloween celebrations in the annual event, which is sponsored by the student-run Northwestern Community Development Corps (NCDC).
“We have a vested interest in the children and what goes on in their community,” said student and NCDC co-chair Lauren Parnell.
Project Pumpkin offers Evanston and Chicago children ages 4 to 12 an entertaining environment for the usual Halloween festivities. The entire second floor of Norris Center is transformed into a candy-filled haven and each room is decorated in a different theme. Student tour guides usher costumed participants around to play games, snag candy and tour a creepy haunted house. Various a cappella groups, along with the popular percussion ensemble Boomshaka, provide the musical entertainment. Last year nearly 900 Evanston and Chicago children participated.
The driving force behind this community outreach is the student-run NCDC. Its members organize more than 50 Northwestern student groups to run the booths, as well as nearly 100 volunteers who act as tour guides. During the rest of the year, NCDC offers weekly service opportunities at places such as Y.O.U. (Youth Umbrella Organization), the Evanston Shelter for Battered Women and Children and the Rice Child and Family Center. Many of the children from the different sites are brought to campus to participate in Project Pumpkin.
According to NCDC advisor Suzan Akin, the event has grown tremendously in the past few years. “In the early years there were only a few hundred participants,” she said. “Lately we’ve seen anywhere from 800 to 900 children participate.”
“It’s one of the coolest partnerships that Northwestern has with the community,” she says.
Project Pumpkin took place this year on Oct. 26.