UNICEF’s Halloween coin collecting boxes put to rest

Michelle Sam thinks of this year’s Hallowe’en as she remembers back to her childhood trick or treating nights. For her, Hallowe’en was always a time for dressing up, getting candy and raising money for UNICEF.

Now, a graduate pathology student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Sam has fond memories of running door to door, collecting candy and coins for UNICEF’s Halloween fundraising program.

“I stopped trick or treating when I was in Grade 6,” Sam said. “I started collecting money for UNICEF as soon as I was old enough to go trick or treating. I kept it up because it was for a good cause.”

This year, UNICEF announced it would be putting the familiar orange and black cardboard coin boxes to rest, thus ending the Canadian coin-collecting tradition.

Cathy Memah, manager of community partnerships and events at UNICEF, says talks about the termination of this program have been in the works for quite some time now.

“This (getting rid of the program) has been something we’ve been looking at over the past few years,” Memah said. “We listened to the feedback from parents and schools and from what they’ve told us, the program wasn’t really working for a variety of reasons.”

According to Memah, money and safety were two of the deciding factors for eliminating the boxes this Halloween.

“Parents expressed their concern for their child’s safety because children were carrying around boxes filled with money,” Memah said. “Also, the cost of running the program was another issue because we had to produce the boxes and had to arrange for collecting and processing the money.”

Memah said in the past, traditional door-to-door coin collecting was only completed in one night. Now, schools, businesses and volunteers can raise money for the whole month of October. The money raised this year will go towards aid programs for children in Malawi.

Memah said she believes that revamping of the program has led to plenty more opportunities for schools and other groups to fundraise and interact with each other.

“In the past, we’ve raised about $1 million,” Memah said. “With the new program, we’re aiming to raise at least $1.6 million for Ontario this year. Our goal is to maximize the amount of money to send overseas,” she said.

This year, one of the new fundraising opportunities is the Dare-to-Wear costume challenge, which is geared towards adults. Dare-to-Wear is where people challenge each other to raise funds and the loser has to wear a funny Hallowe’en costume.

For the children, UNICEF has come up with an envelope-type fundraising structure, where each child collects funds for the month of October and at the end of their fundraising, they receive a UNICEF trick or treat bag to take out with them for Hallowe’en.

Even though Sam is sad to see the boxes go, she is happy to have been able to participate with the box program.

“It was a good experience for me because I knew I was helping people,” Sam said. “I think what UNICEF is doing now is great. It gives people more choice in how they want to raise money for the cause.”