Each year, over 1,000 children from Evanston and Chicago visit our campus for a Halloween extravaganza: Project Pumpkin. This Northwestern Fall tradition started over ten years ago by an organization called Northwestern Community Development Corps (NCDC). NCDC’s mission is to increase community both within Northwestern’s campus as well as outside of it. To fulfill this mission, NCDC manages over forty volunteer sites and organizes transportation so Northwestern students can maintain long-term volunteering with minimal hassle. In terms of volunteer sites, their options run the gambit; from animal shelters to soup kitchens, there’s something for everyone.
Project Pumpkin has grown tremendously since its start. It now invites children from all over Chicago to enjoy the night and takes up the entirety of Norris, our student center. Project Pumpkin is planned and executed by three NCDC special events leaders, and since NU starts classes near the end of September, they only have a few weeks to recruit student volunteers, arrange transportation for all of the guests, and organize logistics with the administration. Teams of around 20 students are assembled to help decorate, publicize, and recruit for the event. This year, the decorations team decided on themes for each of the rooms within Norris; they include Wizard of Oz, Red Carpet, and Candyland, among others. NCDC receives funding from the Associated Student Government (ASG) to put on the event, to rent a Bouncy House, and even to create a Haunted House to completely transform Norris. Student groups and friends sign up to host booths, where they will come up with an activity for each of the kids passing through their room. These activities range from making lollypop ghosts, cookie decorating, to making musical instruments.
Project Pumpkin is one of my favorite events on campus because it really does bring students from all over campus together for a unified goal: making Halloween special for over 1,000 kids. Northwestern students’ schedules can fill up so quickly, and Project Pumpkin allows us to take a break and provide a place for many children to trick-or-treat with their families. As I walked through the event I saw members of Graffiti, an NU dance group, teaching two Disney Princesses some great moves and amazed faces surrounding the NU Undergraduate Chemistry Council table concocting witch’s brew. Seeing the smiling faces, sticky fingers, and happy parents truly makes the entire night worth it.