One of the most positive things that happen around Halloween are fundraising events. Two groups who successfully aligned their causes with Halloween are profiled here to share with us the lessons they’ve learned.
The Hartford Halloween Parade to Benefit AIDS Project Hartford (CT): AIDSWALK
AIDS Project Hartford was in need of revitalizing its October fundraiser. Hartford had lost it’s main Halloween attraction, a haunted house, to New York City, and Hartford’s business district was undergoing a revitalization project. The ingenious solution-a Halloween Parade-benefited all three groups. The idea caught on like wildfire and was a smashing success.
Joseph Downton, Director of Development & Public Relations for AIDS Project Hartford, gathered others who would help the cause in January ’98. The first and strongest collaborator was the local Warner Brothers (WB) affiliate in New Haven, WB59-TV.
Looking to promote one of its feature shows and actor, WB helped Downton secure a well known celebrity to serve as the parade’s Grand Marshall – Anthony Steward Head (Giles) from the popular WB Show Buffy the Vampire Slayer [left]. Upon hearing of his participation, Head’s fans launched a pledge campaign for the event. As a reward for their efforts, fans who came to the event, one from as far as West Virginia, were provided a private “tea” with the star. WB, being a client of local radio station KISS 95.7 FM, was helpful in recruiting morning disc jockey, Courtney, to serve as honorary chair of the event. Later, another station was recruited, WHCN/Classic Rock. Nationally renowned famous artist Guy Gilchrist, creator of the cartoon strip Nancy, contributed artwork [see Insert 2] for promotional brochures, T-shirts and pledge sheets.
Sunday, October 25, 1998, the day of the Halloween Parade, brought a perfect warm, bright, sunny day. The 600 participants (90% in costume) were escorted by the Fire and Police Department as they traveled a two mile course through Bushnell Park. Coverage by Hartford TV station WFSB and The Hartford News further helped the event’s visibility.
By all accounts, the parade was a win-win situation. More than $30,000 was raised for AIDS Project Hartford. People came together for a great time, and left Hartford with a new civic event. In the process, the community received a new message about people with AIDS- now is the time to get up and move on with life. It helped show that people with AIDS have hope for living and remaining valued members of society. Halloween Oldies Dance, Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Lupus Foundation, Pittsburgh, PA.
Six years ago Gerry Tonti created a successful fundraiser event for his local Lupus Foundation by putting together something he liked to do with something of good use.
Tonti,who always loved Halloween, found himself unable to participate one year when he broke his elbow. His wife Shelly recommended he contact the Lupus
Foundation to do some volunteer work. After reading about doing an Oldies Dance for a Halloween party, he approached the Foundation about using the idea as a fundraiser. The idea struck a harmonious note and soon Tonti found himself chairing the event.
In a labor of love, dozens of volunteers, local celebrities and businesses come together to produce the Annual Halloween Oldies Dance. Work begins in January with the search for sponsors. Some of the funds are used to purchase door prizes and help pay rental space for the event. Local restaurants contribute by donating food. A festive black on orange program which lists contributors is distributed at the dance. And, the Lupus Foundation places public service announcements.
The costumed dance is enthusiastically supported by local celebrities. Participants over the past six years include: Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman, two stars of the original movie Night of the Living Dead; “Terminal Stare” and “Stefen, the Castle Prankster” from Chiller Theater (a favorite local TV program); The Pittsburgh Post Gazette Town Crier, Emily Bell; and, Star Trek fans known as the “Klingons” who volunteer as entertainers.
Tonti urges others interested in arranging Halloween fundraisers to contact local celebrities to appear at your event. He’s found them very receptive to requests and eager to help.
The Halloween Oldies Dance was Saturday, October 24 from 7:30 p.m. to Midnight. For a mere $15 donation guests were provided an evening of fun, food and frolic as they danced to music provided by a DJ. Quite popular was the “Horror Movie Theme” game. The DJ plays the beginning of a track and guests identify the movie from which it came. The winners got prizes.
Capstoning the night was the best costume(s) contest judged by a panel of local celebrities. The winners receive trophies donated by a local trophy retailer. Many door prizes are awarded, ensuring no one goes away empty-handed. Everyone leaves the dance happy with new found friends, prizes and the satisfaction that they’ve helped others in need.
A relentless desire to help others and a passion for Halloween are the critical ingredients that make Joseph Downton and Gerry Tonti successful fundraisers. The lessons they’ve learned are yours for the taking. So, next spring when your mind turns to thoughts of Halloween, why not consider holding a fundraiser for your favorite not-for-profit group. I can’t think of a better reason to have a Halloween party!
Irene Crovetti-Lewitz and Pamela Howland contributed to this article.