FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – In this day and age, many kids can’t have certain foods for many reasons whether it be allergies or health conditions.
With Halloween just around the corner, kids will be out trick-or-treating around Fort St. John and may see some teal coloured pumpkins and wonder what they mean.
Those pumpkins symbolize houses that will have alternative goodies for those who can’t have candy or other halloween favourites.
Gillian DeConto has had a teal pumpkin outside of her house for 2 years. This will be her 3rd halloween with the pumpkin at her door.
“A couple of years ago, I started researching the idea of giving non-food treats at Halloween. I know a lot of kids that have food allergies. I have some in my circle of friends and so I wanted to look at the idea. I actually found it online, I believe this is the 3rd year that they have been running and the idea is to have inclusive Halloween for all the kids.”
She also says it is about having a balance between candy and other goodies for kids. The first year DeConto participated, she said she was a little unsure how the experiment would work out.
“I was a little nervous at first. I thought ‘is my house going to get egged’ if I don’t have candy. So, I actually bought a box of those chip bags to give out. I had 108 kids at my door and I think I only gave away 8 bags of chips. It really, really surprised me.”
She knew the smaller kids that are out on Halloween would love it because they have a much smaller candy appetite. It was the bigger kids that surprised her.
“The first year I did it, I did goodie bags and the kids were fascinated by it, they couldn’t wait to pick a goodie bag. It went over so well that the next year I didn’t even have any candy at all or chips or anything.”
For her second year, she says she just bought an assortment of items and set everything out in 2 huge baskets and made sure she had gender appropriate items. She also made sure she had items for the smaller kids. She said she was really gratified to see parents and kids enjoying the idea and enjoying the items that are not full of sugar.
She says this year, she is involved with a group of special needs children. She referenced one parent in Prince George who was saying how her son is autistic and has numerous food sensitivities. DeConto said it is really cutting edge for children with special needs and disabilities.
“A lot of these kids are experimenting with elimination diets and that kind of thing. So there is a lot of kids in that population who have sensitivities.”
She says the mom from Prince George was talking about how her son can’t handle going door-to-door and hearing ‘no, you can’t have that’ and searching for those houses that have non-food treats.
DeConto says that she thought about a map to help make it easier to find those houses.
The map has been created and you can add your house to the houses already on the map to show that you have a house with non-food treats. You can add your house to the map here: http://energeticcity.mystagingwebsite.com/tealpumpkin/. All you have to do is click the + sign at the top right hand corner and follow the prompts.
DeConto says she sent the idea off and and she is extremely excited how the map is being made available for people to participate.
Dave Sloan with School District 60 has sent out the map to all schools. It hasn’t gone to parents as of yet, but it has gone to administrators.
“I’ve had a few teachers sign up. The teachers think it is a great idea.”
DeConto mentioned her daughter also has special needs and is involved with the CDC. She says one halloween, her CDC meeting fell on halloween. She says they picked only certain houses that had non-food items.
“They also had people in the group with food sensitivities so they couldn’t have candy. They had done a ton of pre-work to get that set up with the houses they had to go to, and enough things for the kids to gather. I think it is great, I’m really excited to see how it goes over.”
She says she has over 100 kids a year visit her home, so she spends a bit more money. She gets items for a party type gift bag. She gets items like crayons, slappy hands (which are the first item to go every year), yoyo’s, board books, balloons, pencils, rings and bracelets.
Ideas have been brought up for the older kids that visit a house with a teal pumpkin. Lego has come up as well as jacks and bouncy balls, play-doh and other items that would please the older age group.
“It’s easy to have both (candy and toys), people have said ‘is it okay if I have both?’ and absolutely it is okay to have both. We’re just looking for an option for those kids that just can’t partake in whatever the food option is, that there is something else for them.”