On most days Ellington Crescent is simply a wide, flat street lined with elegant two-story houses. But this past Sunday, 35 neighbours banded together to create a one-of-a-kind Halloween festivity for children with and without disabilities, the first of its kind in St. Albert.
A vibrant parade of 650 people popped by during the afternoon event. Some came in walkers and wheelchairs. Others strolled down the sidewalk on their two feet. But the common denominator was a big smile and laughter from receiving handfuls of candy.
In many cases, entire families arrived in costume. Disney princesses, Marvel superheroes, Scooby-Doo, monsters, pirates, sorceresses, fairies, Darth Vader, galactic warriors, cowboys, witches and even a crab. One of the most inventive was a wheelchair that was creatively transformed into the prow of ship, the Broken Barnacle.
The trick-or-treaters were part of Treat Accessibly Hallowe’en Village, a national movement that recognizes obstacles people with disabilities face in enjoying the late October festivity. Two of the hurdles children in walkers and wheelchairs face are motoring up steep inclines or hills and navigating stairs.
The issue was solved as 35 participating homeowners set up tables at the end of their driveway loaded with tantalizing sweets. At virtually every table, homeowners, attired in jaw-dropping costumes, doled out handfuls of candy and chatted with every passer-by.
Aly Keizer, 22, of Edmonton who uses as walker, arrived as the ethereal golden-haired Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series.
“It’s nice to see more people with disabilities trick or treating. This is good. I haven’t had to climb up stairs. And in my neighbourhood in Calder, I’m always having someone help me get through a gate. My voice is very soft and it’s hard for older people to hear me when I call out,” said Keizer.
Dylan Jackson, who came dressed as himself, was there to support his brother Gareth, a young boy who has autism.
“It’s fun. I like that it’s sensory friendly especially for my brother. Loud noises bother him,” Dylan.
Amanda Hanki, a mother of three from Parkland County, was grateful for the effort so many individuals had gone to make the event possible. Her three-year-old daughter, Harper, is wheelchair bound, however it didn’t deter her from dressing up as a mermaid.
“This is incredible. We haven’t had the opportunity to take her trick-or-treating. It’s incredible that a whole block would put this on,” said Hanki.
But the homeowners on the block appeared just as grateful as families who attended.
“I love Halloween. We never realized children with disabilities couldn’t enjoy Halloween,” said Anna-Marie Dribnenki, a homeowner dressed as a Medieval enchantress. As with all the other participating homeowners, she and her husband manned a table.
Making a sweeping gesture with her arm Dribnenki added, “It opened our world. And the kids are so appreciative. One little guy was dressed like a pumpkin. He was so excited to be part of it, he asked me for a hug. It was heart-warming and I feel very fortunate to be part of this.”
Treat Accessibility founder
Treat Accessibly Hallowe’en Village was founded by Rich Padulo, a Toronto businessman who discovered new meaning after noticing the difficulty a little boy in a wheelchair was having handling stairs.
“Back in 2017, my daughter and I were putting out pumpkins on our front stairs. There was a family down the street with a little boy no older than eight who was using a wheelchair. I looked at the stairs and I realized he couldn’t treat. In that moment, it all became so clear. I put a table at the end of the driveway and created a sign so the little boy could come and treat at our house,” said Padulo.
The next year, he took the experience one step further. Padulo cleared out his garage and created a sensory friendly bat cave. He also printed lawn signs for treating accessibly and gave them free of charge to anyone wishing to join his campaign.
Since Paudlo's advertising business closed during COVID, he now devotes himself full-time to spreading the initiative. The movement ballooned quickly with Remax and Canadian Tire adding their support in 2021. This year, Calgary and St. Albert jumped on board as the province's first cities. To date, 800 registered locations across Canada will participate in Treat Accessibly. Their concentration is on removing barriers for all children with sensory, intellectual and mobility issues said Padulo.
“I’d like to change the direction of our vernacular. Kids have a great time. Kids with and without disabilities are thrown together. Hopefully it creates a message they can do things together. Hopefully, it draws parallels in life and the concept of inclusion opens up.”
Anyone interested in joining the 2023 Hallowe’en Village Treat Accessibly can contact local RE/MAX offices for information. Alternatively, additional information is available online at www.treataccessibly.com.