Project Pumpkin goes off-campus

The annual philanthropy event will be held in collaboration with the city’s Fall Festival


Katie Fox

Wake Forest students welcome children from the wider Winston-Salem community to campus in 2019 for Project Pumpkin.

Alden Forkin, Contributing Writer

On Thursday, Oct. 28, from 6-8 p.m., Wake Forest’s oldest philanthropic event and venerated Halloween celebration will return in-person, but off campus.

A cherished highly-anticipated tradition that provides a safe environment for local children to enjoy Halloween festivities, Project Pumpkin’ was missed last year when it was canceled due to COVID-19. This year, the pandemic forced organizers to opt for the event to be moved off campus, but the Project Pumpkin team is still looking on the bright side.

“While this new event has similar characteristics to those of previous years, it is now an opportunity for Wake Forest to go out into the community, rather than the community coming to us,” Internal Head Pumpkin Camden Jordan said.

In past years, elementary school children were brought to campus to trick-or-treat on Hearn Plaza during the event. Children would visit different booths designed by various student organizations. However, this year’s event will look different than those of previous years.

Initially, this year’s Project Pumpkin was planned to return to campus, but it was eventually redesigned and reconfigured.

“After communicating with various schools and community partners, we realized that there was still a very legitimate concern about organizing such a large-scale event in the midst of the pandemic,” Agency Plunge Chair Lauren Robertson said. “As a group, the Project Pumpkin team came together and embraced a more creative approach, reimagining this year’s event in the process.”

Now, Project Pumpkin will be heading off campus on Oct. 28 to collaborate with and join Winston-Salem’s annual Fall Festival event. The city-wide annual Fall Festival takes place at several different locations and invites resident families to come together to participate in fun and memorable Halloween activities and events.

“Once we recognized that it may be difficult to provide an event on Wake Forest’s campus, we considered various collaborative possibilities,” Escort Chair Rebekah Lassiter said. “After many discussions, we decided to work with the Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks.”

This year’s redesigned event will take place at seven different recreation centers across Winston-Salem. At each of the recreation centers, student organizations will set up booths that keep with the Halloween spirit as well as this year’s Project Pumpkin theme, “Into the Forest”. This theme is meant to educate and engage children with information about famous national parks, camping and other outdoor activities and exercises.

From their booths, the Project Pumpkin team and student volunteers will participate in trick-or-treating candy distributions to costumed children. There will also be crafts, games and activities like pumpkin carving and binocular making. Additionally, several events will be hosted at local elementary schools earlier in the day, allowing Wake Forest volunteers to bond with the students by creating Halloween artwork with them.

From social media advertising to t-shirt sales, community outreach to volunteer training, student organization collaboration to marketing, the Project Pumpkin leadership team worked diligently to plan the event’s return this year. Specifically, the leadership team heavily concentrated on the design and fundraising aspects of the event.

“We have been focusing most of our energy on fundraising and decorations to ensure that the event remains relevant to the Wake Forest campus community, even though the event is not being held on campus,” External Head Pumpkin Morgan Jacobi said.

Despite this year’s event being different from those of previous years, one aspect that will remain the same is Project Pumpkin’s fundraising efforts. In addition to providing a Halloween celebration for local children, the annual event serves as a fundraiser to raise money in support of the Wake Forest Freedom School.

“The Freedom School provides children with the opportunity to continue their education throughout the summer with a fun and positive experience on a college campus,” Marketing Steering Chair Elyse Farrell said. “All the money we have raised through t-shirt sales, our crowdfund page and our events at venues like Last Resort and Chipotle contribute to paying for books, school supplies, teachers and everything else that allows for these students to have a phenomenal summer.”