I love Halloween! After carving my pumpkin, I can’t wait to see all the kids on my street in their cute costumes. In past years, I’ve seen fairies, princesses, and even an adorable walking dictionary! And speaking of Halloween, here’s a heart-warming story about the power of words:
One night in the late 1940s after an action-packed Halloween, Mary Emma Allison, a young teacher and mother of three, turned to her husband and said, “It’s too bad we can’t turn this into something good.” Mary and her husband Clyde, a minister, were already collecting clothes for children in post-war Europe. Sparked by Mary’s words, they came up with the notion that American children could somehow combine their Halloween fun with helping needy kids abroad.
Then one day, Mary and her three children happened to see a parade of kids dressed in native costumes wending its way through the streets of Philadelphia. They followed the colorful procession into a department store and then began following a cow which led them to a booth belonging to Unicef. The parade, the cow, and the booth were all part of a program to send powdered milk to needy children overseas.
Inspired by the parade to put kids, trick-or-treating, and Unicef together, Mary sat down and wrote an appeal that was published in 1950 just before Halloween in a national magazine edited by her husband. In her article, she asked trick-or-treaters to combine their hunt for candy with a drive to collect coins for Unicef in tins or milk cartons.
The simple idea, first shared with her husband and then shared in a brief story read by parents across America, caught fire. While there’s no record of how much that first appeal raised, over the years, Trick-or-Treat for Unicef has raised nearly $160 million. Those dollars have purchased food, clean water, milk, medicine, and other precious items for children in more than 150 countries.
One mother’s idea, one conversation, one magazine story, and five words, “Trick-or-treat for Unicef” have saved millions of young lives — amazing. That’s the power of story—let’s harness it as we all write on!