As the old adage goes, it takes a village—but for some Calgary kids getting to partake in trick or treating for the first time, the adage is literally true.
On Sunday, community members from Kensington’s 10A Street NW created Calgary’s first ever Accessible Treat Village.
The concept, started by Treat Accessibly founder Rich Padulo in Toronto, has transformed neighbourhoods into accessible trick or treating destinations across the nation.
Padulo, who was in Calgary for the launch of the village, said that he was excited to see the event take place, even with the weekend’s snow fall.
“I love the fact that it snowed. I know that sounds a little counter-intuitive, but it just demonstrates how excited everybody was on the street… they decorated yesterday during the snowstorm,” he said.
“They were doing it to prepare and create a very, very mobile accessible event location that the kids can be safe at.”
As part of the Accessible Treat Village, residents were encouraged to take their costumes, candy, and decorations onto the street. The goal was to allow children with mobility and intellectual disabilities to avoid barriers like steps and doors.
Placing the locations on the street also made it much easier for kids who have social challenges to take part in Trick or Treating.
“This is exactly what I had in mind. We shut down the street, but you don’t have to do that on Halloween,” Padulo said.
“You can do it from a driveway, you can do it from your end of your lawn so you’re not blocking the sidewalk, but this is beyond my imagination and I love what Calgary has done for this event.”
Outdoor tables were provided for all of the participating houses by Canadian Tire, and all of the candy given out was donated by Kinder.
Easy decision for neighbourhood to take part
The trick or treating event was not limited to children with disabilities. Padulo said it was important to include all children to truly create an inclusive environment.
“One of the things about inclusion especially when it comes to our youth is demonstrating and showing how to do it, and kids don’t know how to hang out with other kids until they socialize,” he said.
“An event like this permits inclusion and sharing of a moment and an experience together, and then all of a sudden when they do see a child with a disability in a movie theatre at school, they’ve already shared an experience so that it’s that much easier for them to do it in real life.”
Angela Kennelly was one of the 10A Street NW residents who took part in Sunday’s event. She, like many of her neighbours that LWC spoke to, said it was an easy decision to get involved.
“It’s wonderful to see, and you can tell that a lot of the kids haven’t had this experience,” Kennelly said.
“It might be a little overwhelming because they come up to the table and you say ‘what would you like?’ And they look at you like what am I supposed to do.”
Kennelly said that approximately 40 of her neighbours signed up to participate.
Support by municipal and provincial leaders
Padulo, who spoke to LWC prior to Sunday’s event, said that his hope was government officials would attend the Accessible Treat Village event to learn more about how to create inclusive spaces in Calgary.
Calgary-Mountain View MLA Kathleen Ganley, who represents Kensington in the Alberta Legislature, visited the village on Sunday.
She said she attended the event because she wanted see what the inclusive event looked like.
“It’s incredibly exciting to see an event that’s inclusive like this—an event that’s designed to make sure that all children have the opportunity to participate in Halloween,” Ganley said.
“I think every child deserves the opportunity to trick or treat, and I think it’s it’s really amazing that people were willing to put their time and energy into making that happen.”
Ganley, in response to Padulo’s call for elected officials to become champions for accessible Trick or Treating, said that “every child deserves to participate and we should do everything we can to make sure that that’s the case.”
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that the event was a reminder of how Calgary sometimes forgets about the barriers that prevent kids from having equal opportunity to participate in something like Halloween.
“It’s important to create spaces like this, and it shouldn’t just be once a year,” she said.
“These are the kinds of things that we need to consider every time we’re making a decision around city building. So, this just serves as a reminder that we must do better, we must be aware that we have folks in our city that don’t have equal access, and we’ve got to make it better.”
First Halloween experience for Ukrainian evacuees
Marina Kravchenko, an evacuee from Ukraine, was celebrating her first Halloween ever by handing out candy with with her friend and fellow evacuee, Natalia.
“It’s hard to express our emotions, because we’re really grateful to be here and help all these kids and participate in this unique event,” Kravchenko said.
“And it’s a really great and unique experience for us because we don’t have it in Ukraine.”
She said that despite all the difficulties in her home country, it felt good to give back and support Calgarians with disabilities.
“Participating, we feel that we can do more and to support someone else as Calgarians, and Canadians that all support Ukrainians nowadays.”