What did you do for Halloween?

Volunteers from Alumni Quad and Starlight Children at Alden Hall, Alumni Quad

Apart from being a college student, I work as a resident assistant on Alumni Quad at UAlbany. As part of Department of Residential Life, I was able to spend my Halloween week helping out an event that brightened children with chronic illnesses and their siblings’ day. I am so glad I got to spend my hours more meaningfully giving back to the community this year. I was so happy to see my fellow Res-life colleagues and residents helping out with “Starlight Halloween Night.”

A day before Halloween, Oct. 30, the first floor of Alden and Waterbury halls on Alumni Quad were decorated with spider webs, skeletons, string of pumpkin heads and bats and Happy Halloween banners. Does it sound like a typical thing that college students would do?


Alumni Quad residents decorating the hallway with Halloween decorations for Starlight Children

Absolutely. The only odd part for this year’s Halloween was there were children in Halloween costumes trick or treating on the hallways.

For “Starlight Halloween Night” on Oct. 30, 50 children who are qualified as a starlight child, who is either frequently staying in a hospital or going through chronic illnesses such as cancer, colitis, cystic fibrosis, mitochondrial disease, autoimmune disorders and burn injuries, were invited.

A program manager of Starlight Children’s Foundation Albany chapter Shaina Marron said, “Because of the nature of the children that we work with, medical issues keep them from participating in what would be considered normal activities like a school party and being able to trick or treat in their neighborhood.”

The event on Wednesday on Alumni Quad provided the sense of normality to the Starlight children. It gave them an opportunity to dress up, trick or treat, face paint, arts and craft, and participate in a costume contest. It gave unique experiences, but at the same time brought their childhood back, said Marron.

The department of residential life staff  and residents on Alumni Quad who volunteered for the event decorated the first floor of Waterbury and Alden halls and ran multiple stations including arts and craft, face painting and mask making.

When the children arrived, children were split into groups of two and took rotations at each station. The resident assistants on Alumni Quad volunteered to escort the children and parents to stations to stations.

An Alumni Quad resident Sean Keenan, 21, handing out candies to Starlight Children

Kimbery Segura, 20, a resident assistant who volunteered to escort the children and parents, said, “It felt amazing interacting with the children and their parents. These children have gone through so much in their lives at such a young age.

“These parents are also under a tremendous amount of pressure so they definitely deserve to see their children enjoying themselves,” said Segura.

There were designated residence rooms on the first floor of Waterbury and Alden Hall for trick or treating and these were chosen voluntarily.

A resident on Alden hall Sean Keenan, 21, who volunteered and dressed up as a skeleton said, “I heard about this event through my resident assistant Robel Moges. When I heard it was for children I signed up right away to give out candies to them.”

Keenan, a junior communications major at UAlbany, added it was meaningful to him to be able to give back to the community through this event.

The Fizgeralds at “Starlight Halloween Night”

The Fizgeralds at “Starlight Halloween Night”

In front of the designated door, one of the parents said, “Knock on the door and say trick or treat.” A child followed her parent’s instruction. As soon as she knocks, residents who are dressed up as pirates opened the door to give out candies. Giggles of children spread on the hallway.

The feedbacks from the parents were very positive.

“The kids loved the event. Our little Hailey loved the arts and crafts and make your own cupcakes. Zachary and Hailey thought the hallways were cool with the decorations and the dim lights. Our little Lion loved all the candy he got. He doesn’t talk much, so his smiles say it all. We all had a great time,” said Karen Fitzgerald, who joined Starlight Children’s Foundation in 2003 after her son Zachary Fitzgerald got diagnosed with Leukemia.

Starlight Children’s Foundation is an international non-profit organization that promotes children’s well being. The Albany chapter started in 2008, and it started with 30 families. Now, over 270 families are part of  the Albany chapter.

According to Marron, “What we are hoping is that this would be the start of an ongoing relationship and we can have annual Halloween party with SUNY every year.”

Segura also believes this event should be an annual event.

“It felt amazing to see how the Alumni community really came together and the participation of the residents was phenomenal,” Segura added.

Ema Buco, a resident hall director on Alumni Quad, with Starlight Children

Ema Buco, a residence hall director for Alumni Quad Waterbury Hall, brought and organized the event on Alumni Quad.

“I think that the Halloween event was a wonderful success and a wonderful way to get my students to interact with a community that is overlooked or forgotten sometimes,” said Buco.

Marron commented, “Ema has gone above and beyond try to accommodate for the kids. She asked about allergies and mobility restrictions, which is always wonderful for us when people are thinking that much what our kids’ need.”

Check out published version on the TU’s Thrive section on Nov. 6:http://www.timesunion.com/living/article/Students-party-for-ill-children-4957524.php#src=fb

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Casey SoHyeun Cho

Intern | Times Union