Halloween has always been Katrina Fontaine’s favourite time of the year.
But as a person living with a serious, life-long genetic illness, the Rossland resident is also aware of the problems it creates for many people.
“I’m really lucky, I’m able to eat candy and as a kid I was able to participate in trick-or-treating,” she says. “But I know lots of families with similar conditions who haven’t had that ability.”
Many issues can create barriers for kids to participate in trick-or-treating, says Fontaine, from allergies, juvenile diabetes or being tube-fed, to having swallowing or digestive problems or auto-immune disorders like celiac disease.
That’s why two years ago Fontaine started the “Teal Pumpkin” campaign in her community of Rossland, B.C.
The idea is simple. Paint a pumpkin teal-coloured, put it on your doorstep as an indicator that you have non-edible treats available. Instead of sugary candy, children can be offered a small toy.
Fontaine, whose illness means she can’t work, says the campaign is a rewarding effort.
“It’s a great way for me to get involved in the community, and to try to make Hallowe’en a little more inclusive for children who might not be able to participate,” she explains.
Fontaine and her friend Bryony Clark prepared about 20 pre-made packages for families who may want to participate. For $10 to $20 you can buy a pre-painted teal pumpkin and a package of toys, however she doesn’t want money to be a barrier for people to participate.
She says the response has been tremendous. She’s sold out all the pre-made packages, and says another 15 families have made up their own packages. (See the sidebar for ideas to create your own self-made package)
“I think Rossland is a great community where this is something that is supported,” she says. “People are quite health-conscious, and even if people don’t have those health issues, they still seem to understand the benefits of doing this project.”
Fontaine says there are many families in Rossland affected by various issues that can keep kids from participating in the holiday and it can help bring the fun of Hallowe’en back to them.
“It is hard for parents. It is really stressful and difficult to limit their children’s participating in something they know their children enjoy, but they know health-wise it’s not the best week for them.
“And I think it’s difficult all around. The children can’t participate in the same way and the families can’t participate with other families the same way.
“So I think this is a great way for people, they don’t have to self-identify and kids are still able to participate.”
Fontaine’s preparing a map of all the locations with teal pumpkins in Rossland for Halloween night, and will publish it to bhubble.com and the local Facebook community pages.
“Two years ago I sort of did it last minute. I wasn’t feeling well at the time,” she says. “But a local physician, Dr. Laara Banner, said ‘if you get the pumpkins, I’ll get the people together’. So we pulled it together in a couple of days.
“So we’re hoping that working a few more days in advance, a lot of families will benefit for sure.”
For more information, contact Katrina at firstname.lastname@example.org, on her Facebook page, or call 250-231-8770.
Handing Out Treats:
-If handing out both edible and non-edible treats, you can either mix them together or separate into two bowls.
-Depending on your preference and number of expected trick-or-treaters, you can let each kid choose between candy or a toy, hand out toys and no candy, or give them the option of candy and a toy or two toys (which makes it fair for the kids who cannot have candy).
-Feel free to share about the TPP but it’s also not necessary to do so when everyone is offered the same options. Kids don’t need an explanation about toys and the kids who require them will know to stay away from the edibles.
Suggestions for non-edible treats:
Glow in the dark (almost) anything
Spooky Halloween trinkets, mini skiulls, bones, vampire fangs, witch fingers
Pencils, erasers, stamps