Trick-or-Treat…for Disaster!

Story by Patricia N. Griffiths/Red Cross Cascades Region

SW Washington Red Cross Youth Volunteers Turn Halloween Fun into a Fun-draiser

Scuffling footsteps, whispered giggles, and cheers of “Trick-or-Treat!” will be the sounds heard at front doors everywhere this Halloween.

But throughout neighborhoods in Southwest Washington, dozens of costumed high schoolers will have their own cheer: “Trick-or-Treat for Disaster!”

The SW Washington Youth Council makes plans for its annual Trick-or-Treat for Disaster on Halloween

These dedicated teens fundraise every year as part of the Red Cross Youth Clubs, which operate at six high schools in Clark County. The events at these clubs are planned and coordinated by the SW Washington Youth Council. Two members of the Youth Council explain how Trick-or-Treat for Disaster works.

Jaelyn Sotelo, a high school junior and Trick-or-Treat for Disaster veteran explained that the event is carefully choreographed.  First, the Youth Council plans the event and obtains materials, such as literature and money cans. Then, a few days before Halloween, the club members form into groups of two to four students who “seed” the neighborhoods with campaign flyers.

“We leave the flyers at doors or ring doorbells. If people come to the door, we give them a spiel about why to contribute on Halloween. At that point, they take us seriously. It shows we’ve planned it meticulously,” Sotelo said. “They recognize youth in our community are trying to make good.”

On Halloween, club members are encouraged to canvass in costume and have fun. Sotelo paints the picture for some of the encounters on past Halloweens.

“Whenever we go to the door and you usually see someone’s first reaction – what are you doing? –  since we are older than the usual young trick-or-treaters,” she said. “Then they hear why, and have a big shift in attitude.”

The response is heart-warming.

“People give what they can. They are generous. They donate spare change and up to $50,” she said. “Every penny counts.” 

The campaign doesn’t stop there. The Red Cross youth are also savvy at following up on opportunities to recruit for the Red Cross Cascades Region.

“Once we collect money, we work on making connections with people. We talk with people,” Sotelo said. “It can lead to other opportunities.”

The results speak for themselves. With well-deserved pride, Sotelo explains that last year the six clubs raised about $1,000 for disaster services. This year, funds will go to disaster aid for Hurricane Dorian and for local survivors of home fires.

Elin Berthau, the SW Washington Youth Council president, provided an idea of the scope of this event, by noting that about 250 students are involved in the high school clubs. She explained the difference that Trick-or-Treat for Disaster has made.

“Two years ago, when the Eagle Creek fires happened, it was cool that we were doing something everyone knew about. Everyone was helping!” Berthau said. On a more personal note, she said, “It makes me feel good that we are doing something good for people.”

Sotelo wrapped up the sentiment of the event. “We could be doing something else, a party,” she said. “But we are contributing to our community.”

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