A Great Lesson on Last Year Halloween

by Elen Stone
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Halloween never has been my favourite holiday. As a kid, growing in a city, Trick-or-Treating meant getting in and out of the car (often on very cold nights) and wearing coats over our scary or funny costumes. I certainly liked the candy and the costumes, but it never made much sense to me.

As a mother and adult, I must admit I have warmed to the holiday,

although I still have a small problem with all the focus on witches, ghouls and such things.

A holiday that focuses on spooky things still bothers me just a little bit.

I’ve been pleased that my friends and my children have typically chosen more wholesome images to emulate through their costumes.

This year was different though. I’ve actually been looking forward to Halloween since the middle of June. I planned, I prepared, I thought and strategized about it.

But, it didn’t go quite the way I expected.

The Garage Sale Event

Our community has a neighbourhood garage sale each June.

By planning everyone’s sale on the same day more people attend and the event is more successful for everybody. For several years my daughter has had a stand selling lemonade, coffee, muffins and cookies, taking advantage of all of the shoppers who came to our cul-de-sac.

Last year, my best neighbour and I added sandwiches and other grilled food to the menu. People could shop and get a meal too! We had so much fun; we did it again this year. Only this year, we secretly decided to give the proceeds to our neighbours who have a son with autism. At our annual party, after the sale, we presented them with about $120 (a lot of money when you aren’t selling anything for more than a dollar!) to give to the autism group of their choice.

Trying to Organize a Spooky Garage Halloween Event

The mix of the fun we had and the response we received from our neighbours led to another idea – let’s do this at Halloween too.

Halloween would be perfect we speculated; lots of traffic (since we always have more than 200 trick or treaters and easy to market (through flyers in the neighbourhood). It seemed perfect!

Every few weeks the subject came up. We talked about what to serve and how to market it.

Jim, who works in the food brokerage business, got sponsors to provide all the meat.

As the calendar turned from October to November the next day we got more serious and the menu was set: hot dogs, bratwurst, hamburgers and homemade chili.

As I worked on the marketing flyer, all the foods became holiday-themed: Boo-Halloweenies, Beastie Brats, Haunted Hamburgers, Chilling Chili and Spooky Huge Cookies. We decided to sell soft-drinks and chips. We added a place for kids to bob for apples.

We would have the candy from five houses for one stop trick-or-treating. We shared more than 190 flyers and sent 96 emails to friends too.

We were raising money for a great cause. In the final week we even realized we were also going to have perfect weather.  We had the perfect setup for a successful Halloween Event.

Halloween is Here!

Halloween Day Morning I made the chili Sause. After lunch I finished shopping for the final fresh items.

I couldn’t wait to set up! We got everything out – ran extension cords to the street, set up lights, tables and chairs, scary decoration, blocked off the cul-de-sac and fired up the grill.

Two other neighbours were manning the candy – to help the trick-or-treaters get it and to tell them which houses were empty.

My daughter, decided to help with the event rather than trick or treat. She would take money

and answer questions. The son of a neighbour would take and fill orders, and I was the Grill-Woman with another friend as Grill-Man.

We fed the families around us, ourselves and our kids to get the grill going, and they took off to collect candy and good wishes. We were ready!

It got dark, and in the beginning we had very few trick-or-treaters, and even fewer customers. One mother said she and her son would be back after they were done. We rubbed our hands and prepared for the onslaught.

And the onslaught came!

The Results of our Event

By the end of the evening we probably had 50% more from our typical number of trick-or-treaters. We sold out water, apple juice and soda.

We sold all our grilled items. We made $293 (after expenses).

It was a very good night for me and the others. We sold out and everybody had fun and was happy that we had the money for a good cause.

It was Monday before I was really back to normal.

The Lessons we Learned

Early on Monday I woke up thinking back on what we did – and what we accomplished. $293!

I didn’t even count it until Monday. Truth be told, it was more than I expected at that point.

My reflection helped me realize that several positive things happened:

  • We had fun all of us planning and doing the event.
  • We strengthened neighbourhood relationships.
  • We taught our children a lesson about caring and doing things for others – through our actions, not our check-books.
  • We made a memory we will talk about for years.
  • We learned what might have to change if we do this again on Halloween and get better results!
  • I got the subject for this essay.
  • A neighbourhood shelter got the rest few hamburger and hot dog buns left.
  • And we did add $293 to a Children’s Hospital Autism Unit to help them do their work.


However, the best result for me was the lesson of reflection.

All the value created by the event was overshadowed in my mind when we didn’t reach our goal.

My personal goal had been $500. So, in reality, we did about 60% of that goal.

I lost a little bit sight of all the good by focusing only on the desired outcome.

If you had asked me Monday morning if the event was a success, I would have grimaced and quickly said “oohh it was OK”.

If you ask me now, I will say that we didn’t raise much money as I thought (the 500$ goal), but it was fun, and we all learned a lot.

Anytime you can have fun while learning is a good experience.

We all suffer small or big defeats, challenges and disappointments.

Big or small, I believe there is value and learning in every one of them.

Our goal has to be to find those lessons. We only find them by reflecting on the experience and expecting to find them.

I don’t know what next Halloween holds, but we already are talking about the Haunted Garage Sale. We may expand to spooky breakfast or brunch!!

I’ll let you know how it goes.



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