Between the college students and the elementary students, it was hard to tell who had more fun at the Husky Community Halloween Party.
The Athletics Department transformed the area around the softball field on the Gorham Campus into a trick-or-treater’s delight on Friday, October 22. There were games of all kinds, a hayride, a stroll through a haunted forest, a dance party with spooky music, and, of course, lots of sugary treats. All of it was free for kids in fifth grade or younger.
Student-athletes ran every aspect of the event. Just like their guests, the hosts came in full costume. Some were more fanciful than others. The men’s ice hockey and soccer teams wore hockey and soccer jerseys, respectively. The women’s soccer team, meanwhile, dressed up as lumberjacks while the field hockey players transformed into walking and talking M&M candies.
“I just hope I see a lot of smiles and laughs. That’s our goal here,” said Sam Ellis, senior captain of the field hockey team. She and her teammates contorted themselves into tunnels and hurdles for the kids to navigate as part of a human obstacle course.
Sophomore Zach Ellsworth traded in his ice hockey stick for a putter and gave kids pointers on miniature golf. “We want to help out the community and do a lot of community service. So, I think that’s why we’re here on a Friday night,” Ellsworth said. “That’s a big part of our school, not just the hockey team, but everyone.”
That relationship between the college and community has a long history. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) launched the annual Halloween party about 25 years ago. The event has been dormant, however, for the last two years. A weather-related power outage caused it to be canceled in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic gets the blame for last year’s cancellation.
In light of the pandemic’s continued impact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends certain precautions around holiday activities to reduce the risk of transmission. The Halloween party is in line with those recommendations through its outdoor setting and the University of Maine System’s policy requiring students who engage in activities on campus to be vaccinated.
“I’m very grateful to be able to do stuff like this. I know a lot of places aren’t able to,” said Women’s Basketball Coach Samantha Norris. “The fact that we’re able to have the Community Halloween Party back in action certainly says a lot to our resilience and our ability to come back together.”
Norris is the party’s chief organizer. Her work begins weeks in advance to secure food donations and coordinate publicity with the Gorham Recreation Department. On the day of the party, she oversees players from all of the Athletics Department’s 22 teams as they set up, operate and break down the infrastructure for the event.
Upon seeing how much fulfillment the student-athletes got out of their involvement, Norris said, “I think they feel like it’s a party for them and then they’ve invited a couple of kids to come along from the community. So, I think it’s been a really positive response.”
The National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA) echoes that assessment. It has presented the Halloween party with the Josten’s Community Service Award in the On-Going Projects category more than ten times over the years.
The friendly faces that the players showed to the kids were replaced with game faces the next day. The men’s and women’s ice hockey teams, the field hockey team, and the women’s soccer team all gave themselves an extra Halloween treat by adding wins to their records.