Thousands of Local Children Enjoy a Sweet, Safe Halloween
The USC Norman Topping Student Aid Fund (NTSAF) brought 1,600 bags of candy to distribute to local children at its annual Safe Halloween event — and all of the sweets were claimed by 9 p.m.
“We had 1,200 candy bags last year, and they were gone by seven o’clock, so we increased it ,” said NTSAF Director Christina Yokoyama, who dressed as Superwoman for the occasion. “Close to 2,000 people attended, maybe 2,500 plus.”
For more than a decade, NTSAF has collaborated with the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and the Hoover Recreation Center at 1010 West 21st Street to host the free holiday celebration for local children and families.
The only student-funded scholarship in the country, NTSAF assists students in need of financial aid who demonstrate community awareness in their pursuit of higher education. NTSAF is part of the USC Division of Student Affairs.
Topping Scholars — USC students who receive NTSAF scholarships — plan and run Safe Halloween, which featured a haunted house, six inflatable rides, and 10 arts and crafts tables where children worked on projects such as Halloween masks, bookmarks and puzzles.
“I like the idea of the event: it’s a safe place for kids in the community to come to have fun, get candy and do Halloween crafts,” said sophomore James White, a Topping Scholar double majoring in political science and policy, planning and development.
The fact that the event is free is an added bonus. “The kids get free candy; all the rides are free; they get face paint; and they do activities,” said freshman Jessica Rodriguez, a Topping Scholar double majoring in human biology and anthropology.
Dressed as everything from Rapunzel to Spider-Man, from knights in shining armor to zombie football players, the kids giggled, shrieked and ran from one attraction to the next.
“Halloween’s awesome!” exclaimed second grader Julian Delatorre, who had just tumbled out of an inflatable bounce house. His friends and fellow classmates Raymond Fabian and Mauro Meraz yelled “woo hoo” in response.
Many of the families who attend Safe Halloween return each year for the festivities.
Ezara Palacios brought her three-year old daughter, dressed as a pink bear, to the event. Years ago, she used to bring her older son, who is now 17.
Mothers Patty Delatorre and Crystal Espinoza also make a habit of coming to the event, which their children have attended for two years running.
“For the little ones, it’s perfect,” said Delatorre, who brought her son Julian.
“And the kids like coming here,” said Espinoza, who attended with her son Raymond Fabian.
The children’s excitement and the parents’ appreciation made it worthwhile for the Topping Scholars, who contributed their time and energy to create the successful event. Many Topping Scholars also have a deeply personal connection to giving back to the community, since 40 percent of them grew up in the neighborhood.
“It’s just really great, because you get to see the kids have so much fun that they wouldn’t otherwise have if we didn’t throw this event,” said senior Manpreet Kaur, a Topping Scholar majoring in business administration (cinematic arts).
Freshman Karla Barajas, a Topping Scholar majoring in linguistics and minoring in public policy, added that the kids weren’t the only ones having fun.
“I got to meet some Topping Scholars I had seen, but I hadn’t really gotten a chance to talk to before,” she said. “So it was a good experience.”
The value of the experience goes even deeper for Anabell Guzman, who brought her two-year-old son.
“It’s a great opportunity for the USC students to interact with the community,” she said. “And the children get to interact with the USC students, which is also very important and persuades them into higher education.”