Today, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is the longest running youth engagement campaign in America and has raised nearly $177 million to help UNICEF provide children with health care, nutrition, clean water, education, emergency relief and more. Originating as a grassroots campaign after World War II, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has now evolved into a month-long celebration of the power of Kids Helping Kids®. Throughout the month of October, kids and families across the country are encouraged to #bescarygood and add purpose to Halloween by collecting lifesaving donations for UNICEF.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

How It All Began….

In 1947, Clyde Allison, a senior editor at a publishing house, and his wife Mary Emma, an educator, were handing out candy on Halloween night. As young trick-or-treaters knocked on their door, Mary Emma felt conflicted. She loved children, and she was delighted to see their faces light up as they took their treats. However, she couldn’t help but think about all the children in the world who did not have access to basic necessities.

“How can we make this into something good?” Mary Emma asked Clyde, who was thinking of ways to encourage kids to do more public service.

The following year, the Allisons and their three children, along with thousands of other children, trick-or-treated for soap, clothes, and other goods that could be donated to people who had been impacted by World War II. When the organization they were sending their donations to stopped receiving goods in 1949, the Allisons looked for other places they could help.

A Chance Encounter

One day, Mary Emma noticed a cow — yes, a real cow — leading a group of children down a shopping area in Philadelphia. She followed the cow and learned that the children in the parade were raising funds for UNICEF to help other kids. Inspired, Mary Emma began a nationwide movement: Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.

In 1950, for the first time, Halloween trick-or-treaters across the country participated by carrying hand-painted milk cartons, which they used to collect donations. The first Kids Helping Kids® campaign was born!

Spreading Action

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF spread rapidly to other countries. Canada, Japan, France, Spain, and the Philippines enthusiastically joined, and the little orange box became increasingly well-known around the world.

Additionally, an important partnership was formed in 1994 with Key Club International, the oldest and largest service program for high school students. Recognizing the importance of service leadership and mentoring of younger children, Key Club members frequently partner with their local K-Kids Clubs to help elementary school students participate in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, passing along the tradition of Kids Helping Kids. Key Clubbers have helped raise more than $7 million in lifesaving change and have supported many UNICEF programs.

Why Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF in 2017?

This year, the need for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is more critical than ever. As multiple crises threaten children’s lives, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF donations will support UNICEF’s emergency relief work for the world’s most vulnerable children affected by crises.

Nearly 70 years have passed since the idea came to life, yet Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF continues to be passed on from generation to generation as children realize they have the power to make a difference in this world.

Get involved and #bescarygood this Halloween season!

Order your free Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF boxes today!

Fun Facts!

  • Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF promoters have included Kermit the Frog and Casper the Friendly Ghost, and the Peanuts gang!
  • In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation that designated Halloween as National UNICEF Day.