Over the years, Halloween has grown from being a religious holiday to being fueled by candy, costumes, and giggling children. It’s a magical night where kids can dress up as animals, superheroes, or perhaps a crazy combination of both. Every child deserves the right to dress up, arm themselves with a bucket, and roam the streets for candy, regardless of who they are.
When children in California were in danger of losing that magic, the Santa Rosa Police Department stepped up and made sure that despite their situation, the children would still have that one night where they were just like every other kid in the nation.
Due to the wildfires raging in California, over 1,000 children were displaced from not only their homes but also from their lives. These kids are part of the over 100,000 residents forced to evacuate and escape a fire that is responsible for incinerating over 245,000 acres of land, killing 42 people, and destroying 8,200 businesses, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
But statistics were most likely the last thing on the children’s minds – after all, it was almost Halloween. What were they going to choose for their costumes? How were they going to get candy?
The Santa Rosa Police Department was able to answer one of those questions. With the help of donations from all over the country, the department was able to organize a costume giveaway for the children displaced by the fires. Sergeant Summer Black describes the force behind the event as a result of seeing the reality and devastation that the fires had wreaked onto the kids’ lives. Everyone just wanted to make sure the kids had a normal Halloween night.
“The response has been overwhelming,” she admits. “We were so focused on making sure people were safe and getting them out of their homes, it didn’t really sink in. After, we kind of realized that our city is going to be changed forever.” Even people on the police force were affected; 8 of the 150 men lost their homes due to the wildfire.
Colleen Teitgen was one of those who benefitted from the costume drive. “When I heard about this I was so excited to be able to take care of [my daughter] and find something,” says the mother of two, who was able to pick out a skull and cape for her young son. Her daughter was able to pick out a dark angel costume.”I had ordered her a bat costume before the fire and it is somehow still in limbo and I keep getting notifications from the post office. She was getting really worried that she wouldn’t have a costume.”
Despite the destruction caused by the fire, people’s spirits haven’t been completely crushed. The community plans to rebuild as best as they can and create new memories, starting with this year’s Halloween. “We will rebuild,” Black says. “Halloween for kids is a big deal and this allows them a night where they can be kids and not have to worry about what they’re going through.”
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