Student groups give children Halloween experience at Project Pumpkin

A Northwestern student gives a henna tattoo to a Project Pumpkin participant. The Muslim-cultural Student Association set up a booth at the event.

Rosalie Chan, Reporter

Halloween came early to Norris University Center on Thursday as more than 70 Northwestern student groups volunteered their time and hosted activities for children at Project Pumpkin.

Evanston families and Chicago area after-school programs like Project JAM and YOU attended the event, planned annually by Northwestern Community Development Corps. Hundreds of children from the Evanston and Chicago area turned out, and about 30 NU students served as chaperones, leading students to different rooms for trick-or-treating.

“Out of my four years at Northwestern, Project Pumpkin is one of the few events that bring together different corners of Northwestern,” said Arpan Patel, Weinberg senior and co-chair of special events for NCDC. “It’s very nice to see different students who normally don’t interact with each other get together and have a good time at this event.”

This year’s event featured a larger haunted house than in previous years. For the first time, the Panhellenic Association coordinated the project. Previously, individual chapters in the association hosted individual booths, but this year all 12 chapters decided to collaborate on the house.

“It’s exciting to have several Panhellenic members come out and help,” said Kathryn Ikenberry, PHA vice president of member education and a Weinberg senior. “Parents and children were generally scared and having fun. I definitely heard a lot of good feedback from both Panhellenic members and parents saying it was a lot of fun.”

Other activities included trick-or-treating, games and a bouncy house. In Evanston, trick-or-treating is only allowed from 4 to 7 p.m on Oct. 31.

“It’s a great experience for children to play with Northwestern students and trick-or-treat,” NCDC co-chair Heather Ma said.  “They may be from areas where it’s not safe to trick-or-treat, so it’s a great opportunity for them.”

The SESP senior has been involved in Project Pumpkin for four years. She said planning this event takes much preparation.

NCDC has four committees to organize this event that work to contact sites in the Chicago and Evanston area, promote the event, recruit student groups, lead the children in activities and decorate Norris.

Committee members put up 4,600 flyers at various Evanston schools. Their outreach efforts resulted in an increase in individual families who came to the event on their own, said Weinberg junior Taylor Billings, co-chair of special events for NCDC.

“I think it’s really exciting,” Billings said. “Having big groups is really fun, but I think it’s nice getting the family who lives down the street.”

Patel said he was especially impressed with this year’s decorations.

“This is one of the best years for decorating,” Patel said. “The different themed rooms are amazing.  I like that we gave committee members autonomy.  The set-up is really well done.”

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