Why I Love Halloween on the Wayside Campus

Why I Love Halloween on the Wayside Campus

By Sara McCabe, vice president of campus services, (aka Veruca Salt in staff photo above)

Every year beginning in September, or honestly, mid-August, we start planning of our annual Wayside Campus Halloween Dance. It’s usually met with some eye rolling and smirks from the other campus managers because no one wants their summer rushed by thinking about fall. No one, except for me.

We reluctantly pick a date and book a DJ and then…we wait. What happens during the next two months is the most exciting thing to witness aside from an in-person encounter with Jack Skellington (one of my favorite Halloween movies). Our kitchen, maintenance, clinicians and program staff get excited, and I mean REALLY excited. There are spooky treats to be made, decorations to be hung, games to organize and staff costumes to plan.

Best of all, the kids begin to look forward to an awesome night of fun and more candy than any one human can eat. It’s an understatement to say our Framingham Campus staff go all out and it’s not just because I’m a relentless advocate for all things Halloween. While it’s true the holiday is my favorite, few people really know why.

Sadly, our residential kids don’t get many opportunities to just be kids. Halloween is the one holiday where they don’t have to feel the pressure of not being at home with their families, the stress of buying gifts for their loved ones or missing out on a big family meal at Thanksgiving. Even though we try our hardest every year to give them the best holiday possible, we cannot fully understand or heal the grief they experience from not being at home.

But Halloween is different.

They get to wear a costume, dance, play games, hang out with friends, eat candy, laugh and experience what it’s like to be an adolescent without the weight of the heavy burdens they carry every day. They can forget, even just for a few hours, that they are in a residential treatment program. It’s an opportunity for us to provide them with a normal childhood experience and for our staff to dress up and spend time with our kids outside of group therapy, homework and chores.

That’s the real reason we start talking about Halloween when people want just one more beach day. It’s the smiles on 80 kids’ faces and our staff being part of making a childhood memory our kids truly deserve. It’s that simple. There are hundreds of moments in any one year that make me love the work we do at Wayside. Halloween just happens to be on the top of my list.

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