Categorized | Business, Charity, Family, Kids, Living, People

A Trick and a Treat

By AML Publisher
Photos courtesy of Stacey Granger/Life Art Imaging

Emma Shapiro, 12, founder of The Halloween Helpers.

Emma Shapiro, 12, founder of The Halloween Helpers.

Every mother asks their child to clean up their room. But, not every child who takes to the task comes up with an entrepreneurial, charitable vision in the process. Not the case with Wynnewood’s Emma Shapiro. Last fall the 12-year-old, a seventh grader at Bala Cynwyd Middle School, was cleaning out her closest and came across ten old Halloween costumes which she had outgrown-Cinderella, Hannah Montana, a witch costume, and more. Emma asked her mother, Ilyse, what she should do because she felt throwing out her once-worn outfits seemed wasteful. Ilyse challenged her daughter to think of an idea. And, thus, The Halloween Helpers was born.

This year will be the first run at a collection for The Halloween Helpers and the Shapiros are counting on community support across the Philadelphia region to reach their goals. The concept is simple, yet the impact is life-changing: Recycle once-worn costumes to pass along to a neighborhood in need where families do not have the financial means or resources to purchase their own Halloween costumes.

After some research about local communities in need, the Shapiros connected with the Greater Norristown Police Athletic League, also known as PAL. On October 19th and 20th, The Halloween Helpers, along with a team of over two dozen volunteers and the staff of PAL, is hoping to distribute 1,000 costumes to children in Norristown through their inaugural weekend event at the community headquarters. “It makes me feel helpful, it’s just a great feeling that I get out of working on this idea. And, I know the kids we are helping are honored and excited to have a chance to pick out a complete Halloween costume. They may have had some sort of Halloween experience before, just not what they deserve so now we can make them feel like every other child trick or treating,” explained Emma.

The Halloween Helpers relies on the local community to spread the word for their collection campaign. The comparisons to America’s most successful grassroots charity are inevitable. “People keep telling us ‘You are going to be the next Alex’s Lemonade!’ We can only hope to have such success-it is a huge compliment to what Emma has created with her vision,” explained Ilyse Shapiro.

The Halloween Helpers relies on the local community to spread the word for their collection campaign. The comparisons to America’s most successful grassroots charity are inevitable. “People keep telling us ‘You are going to be the next Alex’s Lemonade!’ We can only hope to have such success-it is a huge compliment to what Emma has created with her vision,” explained Ilyse Shapiro.

Once the children have picked out their Halloween costume at PAL with their personal shopper, The Halloween Helpers is also assisting in providing information about where they can go to celebrate the holiday safely in their own neighborhood. “It’s great to provide the children with a costume, but we also want to make sure that the parents or guardians know of events in churches or local parades where the kids can proudly wear their new costume. In future years, we hope to build that into the program-have a costume parade that day, gain sponsors for treats and expand on the idea of distributing the costumes to make it a full event for the children,” explained Mrs. Shapiro.

Of course, comparisons to America’s most successful grassroots charity, Alex’s Lemonade, are inevitable-with a beautiful, young Philadelphia girl spearheading a movement centered on a childhood memory. And the family is most familiar with the chatter. “Kids are so altruistic these days. They are a participant in the community. So when Emma came up with this idea, it was like, ‘Out of the mouth of babes.’ We hear it often. Everyone says to Emma, ‘This is the next Alex’s Lemonade, this is such a great idea.’ The thing is, Halloween is like Christmas-everyone expects all families to have this Currier & Ives image of Christmas with the tree and presents. And Halloween is akin that to-except nothing could be further from the truth. Many children do not even get one Halloween in their lifetime. Our goal with The Halloween Helpers is to spread that joy around and make sure every child can enjoy this holiday,” explained Ilyse.

Sunday October 4th The Halloween Helpers will be on a Cape Making Crusade at Narberth’s The Handwork Studio. Visit their website thehalloweenhelpers.com for full details.

Sunday October 4th The Halloween Helpers will be on a Cape Making Crusade at Narberth’s The Handwork Studio. Visit their website thehalloweenhelpers.com for full details.

The Halloween Helpers is collecting costumes from schools, churches, banks, scout troops and any business or individual. Their goal is to have 1,000 costumes ready for distribution by October 8th so they can be cleaned, sorted, bagged and tagged. And, they make the donation process easy-they provide collection boxes and posters to anyone who is organizing their own costume drive.

It’s a time consuming process for the Shapiros, as Ilyse explained, but they have had the support of dozens of volunteers including Emma’s friends. “For us, this just takes time to get all of our ducks in a row when these costumes come in. But for the people who are donating, or considering donating, there is no cost to what we are asking them to do. It is as simple as going to look at what is in your closet! The great thing about this idea (that Emma had) that we want everyone to realize-this does not cost any money. It’s just a matter of taking a few minutes to clean out your attic, sort through your kid’s closets and find the Halloween costumes that were going to be headed to the trash, most likely. It’s been so rewarding for Emma. She has been to PAL many times and it has been such a connection for her. The children at PAL are our neighbors; they are nine miles down the road from us. This is about helping your neighbor-we are a community and we are all in this together.”

Interested in starting your own collection drive for Halloween Helpers? Email the Shapiros at halloweenhelpers@gmail.com.

Collection sites for The Halloween Helpers are listed on their website. New sites are being added daily so check with thehalloweenhelpers.com for updated dates and locations across the Delaware Valley.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Julia Hays Says:

    What a great story. Congratulations to Emma for coming up with self-less, creative way to help other children. I hope Halloween Helpers achieves their collection goal. I know I’ll try to find some usable costumes to donate.

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