How it all began
The idea: Halloween could be more than just a day for kids to overindulge on candy. 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.
School groups, church groups and fire departments came together to cover entire towns.
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 had their children 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. Suddenly, the Allisons had nowhere to direct their donations.
The encounter: One day, Mary Emma spotted a cow leading a parade of children down Philadelphia’s main shopping strip. The destination? A booth collecting donations to support UNICEF. Mary Emma knew a perfect fit when she saw one.
"UNICEF has caught the imagination of our people, especially our nation's children ..." — President Kennedy
It was an ah-ha moment with far-reaching effects. That next Halloween, the Allisons’ children and friends collected coins for UNICEF in hand-painted milk cartons. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF was born.
The idea took off like a prairie wildfire. School and church groups, police and fire departments and other civic organizations got in on the act. By 1953, the campaign was so big that the United States Committee for UNICEF — what the U.S. Fund is today — took over.
Soon “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” was an annual chorus heard in the U.S. and overseas as countries like Canada, France, Japan, Spain and the Philippines embraced the initiative, and partners like Key Club International and the entire Kiwanis family began supporting the campaign.
"We are thrilled 'Peanuts' will inspire a new generation of kids to help kids.” —U.S. Fund for UNICEF President & CEO Caryl M. Stern
In 1960, President John F. Kennedy noted "UNICEF has captured the imagination of our people, especially our nation's children... ” Seven years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation that designated Halloween as National UNICEF Day.
UNICEF fast became part of American pop culture. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF promoters included Lassie, Kermit the Frog and Scooby Doo.
The little orange box
Throughout the decades, it seems everyone, from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to former First Daughter Jenna Bush Hager, has carried the little orange box. It's cropped up on TV classics like The Brady Bunch and Bewitched. This year, the classic box will join forces with another American favorite, Peanuts.
“We had the honor of working with Linus in 1952," says Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “This year, we are overjoyed that he’s enlisted Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of The Peanuts Movie characters to join him in support of UNICEF and the work they do to put children first.”
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is also grateful for the support of our National Partners HSNi Cares, Claire’s and Key Club, and Promotional Supporter American Airlines for their support of the 2015 Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign.
If kids this Halloween work as hard as Kindergarten teacher Kathy Nygaard’s 5– and 6-year-old students did last year, a trip to see The Peanuts Movie will be a just reward.
In her winning entry to the 2014 Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF School Challenge, Ms. Nygaard, Olive Elementary School, Orange, Calif., wrote: “My kids have shown more generosity of spirit then many adults I know. On Halloween they went out with their orange UNICEF boxes and raised $113.54 to ‘send to the other children around the world.’ They are still talking about the kids who need medicine and food and water.”
As Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF continues through its seventh decade, its reasons for being remain constant; make Halloween meaningful as well as fun, protect the lives of the world's youngest and most vulnerable, and inspire kids to discover their own ability to help other children like themselves.