The ‘Witching Hour’ is almost upon us. The time when little (and big) kids (and adults) will play dress-up in some type of imaginative way and walk the streets in search of sweet treats. Yet, for some kids who live in Chicago’s West Side neighborhoods, the simple pleasurable experience of going house to house and asking for candy is one in which, due to the overarching fear of violence, they are unable to participate.
For most, Halloween is a non-thinking kind of holiday. Devoid of the pressures of the major winter holidays, Halloween offers everyone a chance to don a costume of his/her own choosing and instantly be transformed into whomever or whatever one wants to be for the moment. Candy, which has become so commonly associated with the orange and black annual ritual, is the reward for having altered one’s appearance in some fashion.
Kids of all ages, sizes and colors partake in the parading around town, knocking on doors, and repetitious exclaiming of ‘Trick or Treat.’ Yet, in Chicago neighborhoods where darkness falls far too often on families’ doorsteps, kids are discouraged from trick or treating on Halloween.
Off the Street Club, an off-shoot of the Boys and Girls’ Club of America, focuses on the neighborhood of West Garfield Park in their efforts to provide kids with safe albeit fun activities. For the holiday of Halloween, due to the fact the streets have been deemed too (insanely) dangerous for the kids to roam about at night (let alone during the day), Off the Street Club volunteers have taken to collecting candy at grocery stores all over the city to ensure kids still get the desirable treats without having to worry about the unwanted tricks.
Servicing more than 3,000 kids, the Off the Street Club (OTSC) will host a Halloween party whereby young guests come to the Club for games, a haunted house and, of course, tons and tons of candy. And not just for Halloween, but for events and holidays throughout the year, OTSC, ensures kids in West Garfield get to be kids and play without having to look over the shoulder.
Whereas many kids in Chicago may take trick or treating for granting, kids in some of the rougher and tougher city neighborhoods, long for the opportunity to roam freely about their community, interacting with their peers and taking pride in their creatively-designed and/or inspired costumes. To give these kids back this age-old tradition, OTSC has stepped-in with the help of countless volunteers to bring back the ‘night’ so that kids can be kids and do what kids do best on Halloween —gorge on candy.
OTSC has a roster of events in which volunteers can sign-up to participate. One such option is the 3rd Thursday of the month session which as posted on www.offthestreetclub.com’s website asks that volunteers meet at 401 N. Michigan Avenue at 5:45 and a bus will take them to the club and return about 10 pm. During the interim, volunteers will mix it up with kids from West Garfield playing, learning, eating dinner, and other types of exchanges.
What’s important is that on Saturday, October 31, 2015, kids in West Garfield will have their own version of Halloween and, along with laughter and playful attire, it most definitely will include lots of candy!
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