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Project Pumpkin brings children to campus for Halloween tricks and treats

November 1, 2006

Norris University Center filled with games, candy and ghosts last week as area children participated in Project Pumpkin.

Project Pumpkin is an annual event sponsored by the Northwestern Community Development Corps (NCDC), a student-run group. It allows children aged 4 to 12 to enjoy the fun of Halloween in a safe and regulated environment.

“We're in an urban area that's not always safe for children after dark,” said Claire Ruberg, NCDC special event co-chair and junior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “So if they can't go trick-or-treating, then we'll bring trick-or-treating to them.”

According to NCDC co-chair Lauren Parnell, the event has been steadily growing every year since being introduced in the late 1980s. It is the largest student-run community service project on campus.

Northwestern faculty and staff are invited to bring their kids, and Evanston and Chicagoland area children are bussed in from various after-school programs including Family Focus, Y.O.U., Hull House, Christopher House and Lutheran Family Mission.

“If we can get a bus to you, then you're invited,” said Ruberg.

More than 800 costumed children attend. They typically enjoy the classic activities such as visiting the Haunted House, bobbing for apples, listening to scary stories and face painting. But there are also more untraditional activities like the Hawaii Club's Hula Hoop contest and the slime-making tent.

“We do get some older kids - 11- and 12-year-olds - who are bored with the typical Halloween activities,” said Ruberg. “But when they see the slime-making tent and all the gross stuff we're making, their eyes light up.”

The NCDC had 300-400 costume-clad student volunteers to chaperone the event and work the activity booths. Around 70 student groups are involved in planning the booths.

“It's fun seeing Northwestern students interacting with the children,” said Alondra Canizal, NCDC co-chair and junior in the Medill School of Journalism. “It brings out a different personality than what you're used to seeing in the classroom.”