The American Red Cross helped children celebrate Halloween Wednesday evening at several shelters where families have sought refuge after Superstorm Sandy.
NEW JERSEY At the Pleasantville High School shelter in New Jersey, the Red Cross collected candy and costumes so children would not miss out on Halloween.
Children picked out costumes brought in by United Way and then took part in a Halloween parade throughout the shelter. Huge bins of candy were collected from which children could trick-or-treat and even pumpkins were donated for decorating. Red Cross volunteers painted faces and provided Halloween themed activities for kids of all ages.
"We just really wanted the kids to have a little bit of normalcy and at least give them some Halloween and time to celebrate," said Alisha Owens, of the American Red Cross.
At the Pine Belt Arena shelter in Toms River, New Jersey, children who were displaced from their homes by Superstorm Sandy dressed in costumes for a Halloween party at the Red Cross evacuation shelter as well. Volunteers decorated the temporary dining hall with a cardboard skeleton, giant cobwebs and assorted ghosts and goblins, setting the scene for the children to don costumes, decorate pumpkins and trick-or-treat.
Those smiles are healthy for the youngsters and the adults at the shelter said Alysa Regenye, a certified disaster response crisis counselor and volunteer with the Ocean County Human Services mental health unit.
“You want to have something to get their mind off the stress. You need to help them find that balance of being sad and being happy.”
The shelter party was organized by Xiomara Velez, a National Guard veteran who understands better than most what stress feels like – she returned earlier this year from a series of deployments seas.
Velez has been volunteering at the shelter since it opened before Superstorm Sandy hit. She suggested the party, organized volunteers to help and solicited food, candy and costumes for children who didn’t have them.
WEST VIRGINIA In West Virginia, the local Red Cross received a donation from five-year-old Kaki Jones. She wanted to make sure that kids who were spending Halloween in a shelter would have some sweet treats. She asked her Dad to donate money so the local Red Cross chapters could purchase Halloween candy to distribute to those displaced by the storms that have made their way through West Virginia and the eastern region of the United States.
“We are so touched by Kaki’s thoughtfulness. The Halloween candy will be a nice touch for the individuals that have been displaced from their homes because of the recent storms,” said Becky Howard, chief development officer of the West Virginia Region of the Red Cross. “We want to thank Kaki for reaching out to her neighbors in West Virginia.”
Thanks to generous community donations and dedicated Red Cross disaster workers, displaced children and their families had a moment to forget about the devastation and take part in happy festivities. It may not have been the Halloween they expected, but it will undoubtedly be a Halloween to remember.