Spirit of Children began in 2006 as a way to bring the Spirit Halloween experience to hospitalized children across the United States and Canada.
According to Steven Silverstein, CEO of Spirit Halloween, the idea got started “almost unintentionally.” That first year, Spirit of Children hosted 11 parties at hospitals across the United States. “The impact was immediate and transformational,” said Silverstein. “Kids, even sick in hospitals, were just kids. These parties also gave some relief and an escape to the parents.”
The essence of our efforts starts with the magic of Halloween and a Halloween party.
What began as simply a way to brighten the lives of these children has since blossomed into an organization that has donated over $54 million since fundraising began in 2007 to support Child Life departments. At present, we have grown to support 144 partner hospitals across North America each Halloween season. Best of all, 100% of every dollar raised goes directly to these partner hospitals in 49 of the 50 United States as well as in Canada, with no overhead costs or administration fees. In addition to monetary donations, the Spirit Halloween team has worked tirelessly to provide over 80,000 costumes, accessories, decorations, activities and goody bags per year since its inception.
All 1,350+ Spirit Halloween stores participate in our fundraising efforts for Spirit of Children. Silverstein said that one of his favorite aspects of the program is the use of the cowbell. “Early on, I was visiting one of the stores in Miami, and they had taken it upon themselves to ring a cowbell every time they received a donation, kind of like a tip at a bar,” he recalled. “As soon as I heard the bell ring, I thought, ‘Brilliant!’ First, when the bell rings, every associate in the store stops and yells, ‘Thank you!’ Second, most other guests in the store will ask, ‘Why are they ringing the bell?’ That is our opportunity to say, ‘Well, glad you asked that…’ Stores really own this and SOC is absolutely the heart of Spirit Halloween. We all feel a sense of ownership and pride in our ability to make a difference and improve the lives of children and their parents who are facing the challenges of medical and hospital issues.”
Child Life departments are a crucial part of the care that children receive during their hospital stays. Child Life specialists address the emotional and psychological aspects and needs of a child’s recovery, while doctors and nurses focus on medical treatment. The money Spirit of Children collects each year is used by local partner hospitals to fund programs such as art therapy, music therapy and pet therapy, as well as purchase necessary sensory equipment and distraction devices for painful procedures. This funding has also helped retain Child Life specialists in emergency rooms, gone toward building playgrounds and playrooms, and supported summer camps for children with specific limitations.
Spirit of Children has been and will continue to be a cornerstone of Spirit Halloween’s philanthropic mission. “Spirit of Children is micro-philanthropy at its best,” said Silverstein. “We are receiving millions of donations from individuals. Because we are so grassroots, the program is not well enough known. But we are getting the word out and little by little, we continue to gain momentum.”
In January of each year, we conduct check presentations for grants to our partner hospitals based on the funds raised in their local Spirit Halloween stores the previous Halloween season. “The check presentations are always a highlight, kind of a reminder that Spirit Halloween is coming back soon,” said Silverstein.