The Children's Institute Blog

A Spirit-ed Halloween Bash

Posted: Oct 20, 2017 by The Children's Institute

They came to The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh this week with costumes in every size imaginable – a Lego knight, a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, Super Mario, G.I. Joe.

They came with pumpkins to paint, stark-white masks to decorate, and lava-lamps to customize, not to mention a giant Kenny the Kangaroo to pose with in selfies.

They came with trendy backpacks, masks, wigs, blankets, and enough nail polish, lip gloss and temporary tattoos to accessorize an army.

“We do it for the kids,” said Spirit Halloween District Manager Amanda Makin, who leads stores in four Pennsylvania communities – Johnstown, Indiana, Lewisburg and Dubois. “We do get a lot of shock, especially from parents when they hear it’s free and we’re giving it away. If you can’t go out and trick-or-treat, kids can get depressed. So, we bring it to them.”

Child-life and therapeutic activities programs at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh would be impossible without Spirit Halloween. Its Spirit of Children fund-raiser, which has started for the 2017 Halloween season, has raised $37 million for child-life activities at North American hospitals in the past 10 years.

At The Children’s Institute alone, Spirit Halloween has donated $212,887 fueled by supporters’ purchases to date. In FY2017, that amount totaled $49,476.

You could count Isaac Kohn, 7, among the excited. The Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio boy was set to be discharged this week after taking part in an inpatient feeding program.

But what was the main reason he was excited to be at The Children’s Institute Wednesday night? The Spirit Halloween party.

“He’s been dying for this,” Isaac’s mom, Sierra Hampl, laughed. “It’s going to be very quiet without Isaac here.”

In another corner of Austin’s Playroom, a Spirit Halloween staffer – there were more than a half-dozen of them, from throughout Western Pennsylvania – with bright red hair helped deck out inpatient Madison Johnson in full regalia.

“She just wanted to see what this was all about,” said Madison’s mom, Valerie, chiming in with a recurring “Oh, my heavens!” as the Peters Township, Pa. family walked through a maze of free goodies. “It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s great to give these kids a distraction.”

For Spirit Halloween staffer Jennifer Sigvaldsen, who manages the Dubois store, it’s more than a distraction – it’s a mission.

“This is why I work for Spirit,” said Jennifer, after handing Madison some lip gloss and nail polish. “Spirit is an easy company to love and be passionate about. It’s satisfying. It’s gratifying. Knowing all of this is done for the kids? It’s empowering.”

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