Pirates, pizzas, princesses, and more were dropped off on campus by a small fleet of school buses Thursday evening as students from six LA elementary schools ventured to campus for the not-so-scary trick-or-treat fantasyland that was LMU’s Fright Night.
Hosted by the Creare student service organization and LMU Residence Hall Association, Fright Night is an annual event that provides a safe space for children who may otherwise not have one to experience an evening of trick-or-treating at Sunken Gardens. Tables arranged across the lawn offered a fun spread of Halloween-themed crafts, activities, and treats for the young guests to enjoy. An estimated 275 children roamed the garden, loading up on candy.
“My class is the only class that really even remembers Fright Night, because it hasn’t happened since our freshmen year,” said senior health and human sciences major Daniel Magahis, Creare’s vice president of special events and the head organizer. The last time LMU hosted Fright Night was back in October 2019, months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Beginning around 4 p.m. the excited screams of children could be heard across Alumni Mall. Aged from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade, the kids were organized in small groups with an assigned teacher or student volunteer to take them through all the tables set up on the grass.
To the right of the bean bag toss booth was a face painting booth run by Belles, another service organization.
Two smiley faces are better than one; 5th grader Jacob from View Park Elementary sat steadily as a student volunteer painted his cheek.
Earlier in the school year, Magahis received an email from Darian Moore, an LMU graduate student working on her masters in urban education who also teaches fifth grade at ICEF View Park Elementary. She attended an advocacy event, and Magahis was able to arrange for her and her students to attend.
“The kids love it — the face painting, painting pumpkins, everything,” Moore said.
Eyeyanni, a fourth grader at Learning by Design Charter, came in a bloody ghost costume that her mom put together. “My favorite activity is the bouncy house,” she said. As she filled her trick-or-treat bag with candy, Eyeyanni periodically glanced around, seemingly worried that an adult would announce that it was time to go.
Priya Dutta, a junior marketing major and public relations minor at LMU, had been working with Magahis and other Creare members since July to plan the event. “Some of the students here came when they were in second grade and now they’re back, and it’s exciting,” Dutta said. “They may not have had the best Halloween experiences [in the past], but that’s why we have this on campus.”
32 organizations from Sorority and Fraternity life, residence halls, cultural clubs, and service orgs signed up to host a booth. “That is what I was pitching — a schoolwide event,” said Magahis.
After serving dinner food — i.e., not candy — to a group of students, LMU’s Interim Assistant Director for Community Development Edgar Rodriguez explained why an event like Fright Night is so important to give kids the chance to participate in a Halloween tradition.
“In my personal experience coming from a low income neighborhood,” he said, “trick-or-treating wasn’t always easily accessible, specifically for communities of color.”
Rodriguez worked closely with Yadira Enciso, LMU alumni and Assistant Director for Student Engagement in the Pam Rector Center for Service and Action. This is the first year Enciso has been involved in planning Fright Night since the last time she participated as a student in 2016.
”As [Creare’s] advisor, I was able to provide a lot of context and history of what this event has looked like in the past,” said Enciso. “Now, being here in person, [Fright Night] is everything we dreamt of and more.”
The sun started to set, but the children’s sugar highs did not appear to abate. Nevertheless, they reluctantly obeyed their teachers who asked them to find a spot on the stairs before loading the buses to return to their schools.
“Being able to provide that opportunity for students who may not have this as easily accessible for them in a safe and secured environment?” Rodriguez continued. “That’s why we do it.”