The Kids-Helping-Kids Tradition Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF Goes Virtual | UNICEF USA

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The Kids-Helping-Kids Tradition Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF Goes Virtual

October 14, 2020

Halloween is looking different this year, but Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is going virtual so kids can still make the world a better place.

Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF has introduced generations of children to the power of social activism.

Today, $20 can provide 100 bars of soap so kids can wash their hands and stay healthy and clean. $40 buys a round of vaccines to protect a child from diseases, like measles and polio. $185 can provide 40 children with essential school supplies so they can learn and build the skills they need to secure a bright future. 

But in 1947, when Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF founders Pennsylvania minister Clyde Allison and his schoolteacher wife, Mary Emma, started the movement, a dime was all it took to buy 50 glasses of milk for Europe's hungry children.

The Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF box, which this year features the Peanuts Gang, is an unchanging symbol of kid generosity

The Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF box may change from year to year, but one thing doesn't: Kids are always looking for a way to help others. © UNICEF

Times sure have changed. And every year, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has morphed along with them to remain relevant and responsive to vulnerable children's changing needs. This year, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF’s 70th anniversary, is no different. With the coronavirus hurting communities here and around the world, UNICEF USA very early on in the pandemic began working to find a way to keep the tradition going because:

1. Kids and families rely on Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF as a way to do their part for children who don't have access to safe water, health care, education, protection and all the other essentials for a healthy childhood. 

2. Children living in areas hard hit by the pandemic need the help Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF donations provide more than ever. 

3. UNICEF USA is committed to the health and well-being of children around the world and here in the U.S., and we knew we needed to give Trick-or-Treaters for UNICEF a safe alternative to collecting coins door to door. 

That's why Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is going virtual this year. We've created a Virtual Collection Box for every Trick-or-Treater that comes with a custom link and QR code neighbors, friends and family can use to donate online. The Virtual Collection Box makes it easy for children to track the money they’ve raised. Plus, there are loads of fun activities kids can do to unlock even more "coins." They can even choose the causes they want to support!

We're excited to share this new experience with Trick-or-Treaters everywhere. To get started, simply register here and explore all the cool new ways kids can help kids without ever having to leave home.


How Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF began

Halloween will definitely look different this year, but the spirit of Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, America's longest running youth engagement program, has stayed true to its founders' vision. In fact, their ingenuity is very much the inspiration behind Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF 2.0. 

In 1947 — less than a year after UNICEF's founding — the Reverend Clyde Allison and his wife, Mary Emma, were handing out sweets to an endless parade of trick-or-treaters. The spectacle triggered conflicting emotions, as it still does among parents today.

Mary turned to her husband and said, “It's too bad we can't turn this into something good."

"We can," Clyde replied.

The following year, the Allisons and their children went trick-or-treating for clothing, soap and other goods for post-World War II relief efforts in Europe. But after the Halloween of 1949, the charity leading that effort disbanded. The family despaired, suddenly having nowhere to direct their donations — until one day, Mary Emma spotted a parade of children walking down one of Philadelphia’s main downtown streets. The destination? A booth collecting donations to support UNICEF. 

A light bulb went on for Mary Emma, and it was an aha moment with far-reaching effects. That next Halloween, the Allisons’ children and friends collected coins for UNICEF in milk cartons they'd hand-painted, and the original Kids Helping Kids movement was born. Soon “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” became an annual chorus heard across the U.S., and children in Canada, France, Japan, Spain and the Philippines embraced the initiative. The campaign also drew the support of partners like Key Club International and the Kiwanis family along with the notice of presidents.

UNICEF won the 1965 Nobel Prize for programs like Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF that "proved compassion knows no national boundaries."

UNICEF won the 1965 Nobel Prize for programs like Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF that “proved compassion knows no national boundaries.” © UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

"UNICEF has caught the imagination of our people, especially our nation's children." — President John F. Kennedy

In 1960, President John F. Kennedy noted "UNICEF has captured the imagination of our people, especially our nation's children ....” President Lyndon B. Johnson's signing of a proclamation that designated Halloween as National UNICEF Day seven years later cemented Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF's place in the hearts of America's public and culture.

Throughout the decades, everyone, from former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to former First Daughter Jenna Bush Hager, has carried the little orange box. And celebrities, like Lassie, Kermit the Frog, Scooby Doo and the characters from Peanuts and Sony Pictures Entertainment’s “Goosebumps 2” have signed on to help promote Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.  

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF's empowering impact on generations of children has also earned it widespread support among a host of national partners. This year, UNICEF USA is particularly grateful to both Key Club and Johnson and Johnson for helping to make this important Halloween ritual possible for all participants.

For 70 years, young people have helped other kids by trick-or-treating for UNICEF. Learn more about Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF's history in this video.

This year, his first as UNICEF USA's President and CEO, Michael J. Nyenhuis, who also grew up carrying the little orange box on Halloween, is proud to be at the helm for the launch of Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF 2.0

“Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF's virtual offering enables children to safely celebrate Halloween while having fun and learning the importance of giving back.” — UNICEF USA President & CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis

“Keeping children safe and healthy has always been at the core of UNICEF’s mission and Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF’s virtual offering enables children to safely celebrate Halloween while having fun and learning the importance of giving back,” said Nyenhuis. “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF taught me the importance of global citizenship at a young age.”

Students who have participated in the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF School Program over the years would agree. Learning about global issues they can do something about sets kids up for a lifelong commitment to helping others.

“I often ask myself if kids can really change the world or if it’s just the kids in books and movies,” said Georgia, a student from Minneapolis. "Now my answer is yes. Since I saw many kids donate to UNICEF, I have proof that kids can change the world.”

This year, despite COVID-19, will be no different because Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF's reasons for being remain constant:

1. Make Halloween meaningful as well as fun.

2. Protect the lives of the world's youngest and most vulnerable.

3. Inspire kids to discover their own ability to help other children like themselves.

Get involved!