Halloween arrives tomorrow, and with it all the familiar rituals: the costumes, the candy, and those omnipresent little orange boxes that kids use to raise money for UNICEF - right? Wrong. Those of you with cherished memories of carrying UNICEF boxes around while trick-or-treating, offsetting all of that candy excess with some feel-good fundraising for kids less fortunate than you, are on the wrong side of recent Halloween history: UNICEF Canada cancelled the orange box program in 2006, citing inefficiencies - though it still continues south of the border.
Does this mean that the world's largest organization for the rights of children has given up on asking Canadian kids to think about their peers in other parts of the world? Far from it. The little boxes are mostly gone, but UNICEF Canada continues to use Halloween as a starting point to raise funds for UNICEF projects, and has declared Oct. 31 to be National UNICEF Day, with a campaign aimed at kids, parents, teachers and school groups. And it's not too late to take part - the Make October Count for Kids contest may have kicked off last month, but it continues through to Nov. 7, and there are countless other ways to get involved and make a donation. And for those of you who really miss the donation box, the campaign's Facebook page offers you the chance to plunk change into an e-box, thereby keeping your memories alive.
Of course, you won't be able to show your friends and family what an awesome fundraiser you are merely by shaking your coin-filled little orange container in their faces, but there's a lot to be said for the non-competitive aspect of charitable giving - and given that the rest of Halloween is pretty much an amped-up sugar rush of decadent consumption, it probably doesn't hurt to remind today's trick-or-treaters that there are a lot of kids in the world who have way less candy than they do.
And UNICEF isn't the only organization that has tapped into Halloween as a way of raising funds and awareness for a worthy cause. For instance, there's 'Trick or Eat' - a group that is sending costumed Canadian kids door-to-door asking for food donations to help the needy instead of candy. Visit their website to sign up, and they might visit you to collect non-perishable food items, which will then be donated to local food banks.
Also, in 2005, the North American Halloween Prevention Initiative (NAHPI), a creation of several Canadian and international musicians - including members of Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Sonic Youth, Les Savy Fav, along with Feist, Devendra Banhart, Buck 65, Beck and others - paired up with Vice Records and former Unicorns and Islands singer Nick Diamonds to release Do They Know It's Halloween, a charity single that was released to raise funds for... well, UNICEF.
(Perhaps they really are the only ones who have this Halloween fundraising thing figured out.)