Halloween is all about costumes, candy, and cauldrons. Well, maybe not cauldrons, but one Oakland Park resident has conjured up a healthy, fun way for Oakland Park Elementary School students to celebrate Halloween. For the first time, Emma Collum has organized and put together healthy trick-or-treat bags for the school.
Emma Collum is an Oakland Park resident and attorney who is passionate about being civically involved. She currently serves on the Oakland Park School Advisory Board. Each member of the School Advisory Board is appointed to the board and serves as a sort of liaison between the city and the school they are assigned to. Emma is assigned to Oakland Park Elementary school, where she works with the school to see what they need and how the city can accommodate that need.
Her latest project has involved putting together healthy trick-or-treat bags for students at the elementary school. These aren’t your usual healthy snacks, like apples or almonds, though. Emma did extensive research to find dairy-free, nut-free, and all-hypoallergenic treats, so that even kids with dietary restrictions can have them. She also made sure they were fun so they look like things kids would eat, such as gummy worms.
The bags were distributed to students from pre-kindergarten to 5th grade during their Halloween day parade.
Emma is inspired to help schools, teachers, and students because she understands the struggles schools and teachers face. She also knows that it takes a village to make sure the schools are great for students. “I am the daughter, granddaughter, and niece of public school teachers, so I am very aware that many teachers’ jobs don’t start when the school day starts or end when the school day ends. Some of these teachers do everything they can for these kids, and the money comes out of their own pockets. I watched my family do it.”
By putting together the healthy trick-or-treat bags, she has found a fun way to give kids healthy, but not boring food, while also taking a load off of school districts and teachers. “It’s one less thing to come out of their pockets.”
Emma had a village behind her helping her with the bags, too. Heart to Heart Dental and the Oakland Park Kiwanis Club donated to help fund the candy and she had several friends and community members helping her pack the bags. She also enjoyed working closely with school principal Michelle Garcia and School Board Member Sarah Leonardi to ensure the project ran smoothly.
Emma explains that “people are excited to help the school and students to make sure it’s a nice day. In a time where everything seems complicated and ugly, this is a nice, happy thing.”
Her favorite part about this project has been the community response rallying behind her. She has learned that “nothing can beat knocking on a business’s door and telling them what you’re doing and what you need. Don’t underestimate how much people want to help you–you just have to ask.”
While this is the first year for the Healthy Treats bags at Oakland Park Elementary, Emma Collum hopes to make it an annual project. She says she hopes to get more groups involved and maybe even spread the idea to other public schools in the area. Since she temporarily stored all 520 bags of candy in her living room, she also jokes that she needs a bigger living room to store all of the candy next time.
Cassidy Webb is a Texas native and South Florida transplant. She grew up just outside of Dallas, TX, and moved to South Florida four years ago. She now considers Fort Lauderdale her home.
Cassidy is the project manager at a small digital marketing company and she enjoys freelance writing on the side. In her free time, you can catch her exploring local parks or taking long walks through the neighborhood with her dog, Bella.