Halloween In The Tenderloin

Belmont, CA, November 5, 2015— Hundreds of witches, wizards, superheroes, princesses and other critters invaded San Francisco’s Tenderloin District, candy buckets in hand, parents in tow, to embark upon an experience sure to remain in the memories of every child in attendance. Whether they want to have a sack race, try out a jumpy or march in the costume parade, there was something for everyone at Halloween in the Tenderloin.

This year’s Halloween in the Tenderloin Festival was the 19th annual autumn celebration that NDNU has participated in. Dr. Don Stannard-Friel’s Streetwise Sociology class organized the event and collaborated with community partners from Tenderloin Children’s Playground; Boys and Girls Club; Vietnamese Youth Development Center; Glide Memorial’s Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center; Up on Top After School Program; SFPD, Tenderloin Station; and the Tenderloin Safe Passage program. 250 neighborhood children and parents, many of them refugees from Cambodia, Vietnam, Latin America, Yemen, and other, often war torn, countries, dressed in costumes and gathered at Tenderloin Children’s Playground for three hours of fun.

Mom’s in burkas sat in a circle and chatted in Arabic while their children screamed in delight in the haunted house. Little fairies painted pumpkins or drew witches at the art table. Children, whose parents or grandparents fled the Killing Fields of Cambodia or escaped on boats after the fall of Saigon, jumped for joy in the bounce house. Super heroes pushed their faces into whipped cream to find the hidden gumball, blow a bubble, and win a ticket that would be added to other tickets, won at other games of skill, and traded in for prizes.   All night, lines of children and parents waited patiently to have their faces painted by one of the 60 volunteers from NDNU, many arriving in a school bus provided by Jim McGarry, director of the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center and Dr. Judy Buller, chair of the communications department.. Maps of seventy-one safe houses for trick ‘r treating were passed out, as were 270 hot dogs, fruit drinks, and chips.

Dr. Don Stannard-Friel, a professor at NDNU, and his Streetwise Sociology class of fifteen have planned for the event since September. The class is designed to give students the opportunity to understand those who are less fortunate and the urban social problems they face. The goal of the class is to, “learn the issues of the inner city” and “engage with the community,” said Dr. Stannard-Friel. “We want to help others feel safe.” The event gives students the power and feeling of being able to make a difference. The students, along with volunteers, will help run the activities and play with the kids.

“Streetwise Sociology builds up to two main events, we have been preparing for this event for 5 weeks it’s nice to have a whole class dedicated to kids in the Tenderloin- its cool we have a table set up for the parents too. Our next event is college night.” said Daisy Aguilar, Junior, a student in the class and volunteer for the event.

It was a great night celebrating the end of the harvest season, when the line between the world of the living and the world of the dead is said to be at its thinnest, when ancient cultures the world over honored their loved ones who had passed on, and gave thanks for the bounty that their crops produced. Halloween itself is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. But the children of the Tenderloin knew none of this. They were just here to have fun.

The next event College Night will be on November 20th from 5:30 to 8:30 at Boeddeker Park in San Francisco, helping underprivileged children get prepared and excited for college.

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