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Spooktacular scares up hundreds of student volunteers

The Halloween program allows Lehigh students to have fun with children from Bethlehem’s South Side.

Spooktacular, a Halloween-themed program sponsored by Lehigh University's Community Service office, will once again delight and entertain children from Bethlehem’s South Side with a series of events and activities.

The event, which typically attracts more than 200 children from the surrounding neighborhoods, will run from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28 on the third floor of the University Center.

“This is our sixth year, and we hope it’s our most successful ever,” says Carolina Hernandez, Director of the Community Services office. “We have 21 different groups and organizations—representing fraternities and sororities and several student clubs—involved in activities that range from pumpkin carving to face painting to touring a haunted house we’re creating. It should be terrific.”

Hernandez is aided by Lehigh students Tiffany Searles ’08 and Marc Palmer ’10, who are organizing this year’s event and coordinating with the various students groups and individuals who are involved.

“It’s taken weeks of planning,” says Palmer, a mechanical engineering major from Brewster, N.Y. “We start in September and have a fairly tight budget to work with, so we’re forced to become pretty creative.”

Hernandez and her team field proposals from the groups and individuals who are willing to donate their time and efforts to the event. Groups are willing to pre-carve pumpkins, provide food, or even perform a one-man magic show.

“We have one student, sophomore Tomer Nahumi, who is a really accomplished magician, and he’s part of the entertainment this year,” Hernandez says. “Each year, we have between 100 to 150 Lehigh students involved, so you can imagine the variety of the contributions each one of them makes.”

Searles, a senior sociology major from Brick, N.J., is utilizing wisdom borne of experience to help organize this year’s event. She’s been an integral part of the planning process for the past three years, performing duties that included fielding volunteer requests, recruiting, soliciting donations from area businesses, advertising and promoting the event, working through local school districts to make them aware of it and even setting up and breaking down displays.

All told, she estimates that she logs about a hundred hours each year to create a memorable event for local schoolchildren.

“They really look forward to it, too,” she says. “I tutor with a local homework club and the kids get so excited about this event.”

Overwhelming response

But the anticipation is not limited to the elementary school children, Searles says.

“The response from Lehigh students has been overwhelming,” she says. “We’ve actually had to turn away volunteers this year.”

For those who do volunteer, the rewards are plentiful, says Hernandez.

“This is such a special program that really challenges our students to be creative, and allows them to witness firsthand the fruits of the efforts,” she says. “They see the UC filled with kids running around in their costumes, taking part in all kinds of activities and really enjoying themselves. The place is just filled with life and laughter.”

Palmer shares her sentiment.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. “The kids are really happy to come onto campus, wearing their Halloween costumes, and having fun. It’s a great program that allows these kids to feel a part of the Lehigh community and to interact with the students. Hopefully, being on campus and being with the Lehigh students will encourage them to start thinking about and preparing for higher education.”

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Saturday, October 20, 2007

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