Eastgate Elementary students celebrate Halloween by helping Hopelink

A group of local grade-school students has used its annual costume party to show that Halloween can be more than just a candy grab.

The 4th graders at Eastgate Elementary ended their school day Oct. 31 by decorating and filling goody bags for Hopelink in an effort to help the needy before their night of acting greedy.

What they provided was something other than the standard tooth-rotting trick-or-treat fare. The bags contained fruit snacks and dental hygiene products.

Those items are needed to fulfill Hopelink's mission of providing basic necessities, according to Glen Miller, a spokesperson for the organization.

“I think it says a lot about the teachers at that school and for these kids to get this involved in philanthropy at such a young age,” Miller said. “It'll help them become better adults.”

Hopelink will distribute the bags to its six Eastside emergency-service centers throughout the next several weeks.

The help couldn't have come at a better time. Hopelink has seen a 71 percent increase in demand for emergency bags over last year.

“Our food banks are swamped with people in need, so this kind of help is hugely important,” Miller said. “The work they did at this one school will help people over a very large geographical area.”

Students rounded up supplies for the Halloween drive by asking their own dentists for donations. They filled around 150 bags during the Oct. 31 event.

“We get enjoyment out of it, and so do the people in need,” said Eastgate 4th grader Olivia Virgin.

Added classmate Ryan Kelley: “It makes me feel good because I'm helping people and it's fun.”

Eastgate 4th grade teacher Alex Rea talks to parents every year about organizing a Hopelink drive, but it doesn't always work out.

He credits headroom helper Susan Smith with seeing the project through this time around.

“Susan did a great job getting the other parents to help,” Rea said. “She got all this lined up.”

Smith claims the students were enthusiastic about the project all along.

“They jumped at the idea, and that's the cool thing,” she said. “Most kids would be selfish and just want to take some candy home, but these guys gave back.”

Rea donates frequently to Hopelink and used to tutor for the organization. He says the Halloween drive fits in with the lessons he's been teaching about civility.

“We always talk about how to treat people and being respectful,” he said. “Let's face it, Halloween is normally about getting candy for yourself. That's fine, but it's nice to do something for someone else.”

Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at jhicks@bellevuenews.us or 425-453-4290.