The speaker, a young girl, was greeting Stephanie Van Patten, who laughed and replied “Happy New Year!” The girl took some candy and left the rest for …
The speaker, a young girl, was greeting Stephanie Van Patten, who laughed and replied “Happy New Year!” The girl took some candy and left the rest for the trick-or-treaters behind her. It was Wednesday, August 2, but the girl hadn’t gotten ahead of herself. It was actually Halloween—at least at the Oakland Beach Boys & Girls Club.
Van Patten is a Boys & Girls Club board member, but on Wednesday she was also representing the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA), one of several organizations that partnered with the Boys & Girls Club, for the day’s Trunk or Treat event as part of the Boys & Girls Club’s ongoing 2023 summer camp program. Candy-laden cars lined the parking lot, trunks open, with a bucket of candy in each, each trunk managed by a different organization or board member.
Van Patten, Director of Community Engagement at RISPCA, brought along a nine-week-old kitten named Rainbow—Rainy for short—for the campers to admire. Other trunks featured everything from spooky cemetery dioramas to a collection of Funko Pop! figures from the anime series One Piece.
The idea of having Halloween in August originated with Bobby Forand, open door director at the Oakland Beach branch, and “immediately got support,” according to Dan Scanlon, a longtime board member. Forand was enthusiastic about the idea, which he had developed even before he knew he was hired, and as soon as the plan got off the ground he and Lara D’Antuono, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Warwick, reached out to various organizations about pitching in. It was a successful effort.
“You can’t say no to Lara,” joked Scanlon, dressed as David Pumpkins. It didn’t hurt that many of the organizations had partnered with the Boys & Girls Club in the past. The August 2 event ultimately saw Boys & Girls Club staff leading young campers to trunks from RISPCA, Mentor RI, the Kent County Prevention Center, the West Bay Smiles Program and more.
Trunk or Treat lasted about 45 minutes until the campers started trickling back to the gym, where they were eventually picked up by their parents. However, it wasn’t the only Halloween fun the campers would have this week.
The entire week of camp, from July 31 to August 4, was designated “Halloween Week,” with Trunk or Treat followed by a carnival the next day and a costume contest and “monster mash” dance on Friday. Summer camp started June 26 and continues until August 25. According to Rachel Channen Accetturo, the CLUB at Cooper Director, each differently-themed week sees about 100 campers in attendance.
When the summer ends, the Boys & Girls Club will return to normal operations for the school year, with its emphasis on the “core programs” of character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sports, fitness, and recreation. The main club provides before- and after-school care for children in kindergarten to grade 5, as well as an afternoon “open door program” for grades 1 to 12, while the CLUB at Cooper is open to middle schoolers in grades 6 to 8 and includes spaces with creative resources for art, music, film, and more. The Boys & Girls Club also manages sports leagues for club members of all grade levels, ages 5 to 18.
Forand, who started as Open Door Director in March, is looking forward to the future. “I’m already thinking of ideas for next year,” he said, speaking through the head of an inflatable bull costume.
Meanwhile, a camper ran over to give the bull, as Forand was dressed for the occasion, a high five.