Church isn’t a place typically associated with the fun and thrills that take place on Halloween night.
In fact, some religions object to the traditions of a holiday often associated with ghosts, ghouls, fear and playful mischief. But few families or children object to the idea of safe, fun activities on Oct. 31.
Word of Life Christian Church is resuming a popular yearly tradition that’s been known to attract trick-or-treaters and any other youth and parents in search of a good time that doesn’t require trekking into the night. From 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 31 Word of Life will open its doors at 460 West Atherton to the community and become “Candy Land.”
But despite the scheduled date and hours of the attraction, Candy Land is not a Halloween event, says George Wilkinson, Word of Life’s pastor.
“We never use that term,” Wilkinson says. “It’s just our opportunity to connect with the community.”
The program is part of the church’s Community Advocates Uplifting Student Excellence (CAUSE) ministry, designed to support children, he says. Candy Land was timed with Halloween because “thousands of kids” are active during the evening and the church wanted to offer youth and their families a safe haven, he says.
Apart from one of the evening’s main attractions, a 2,500-pound “mountain of candy,” Candy Land provides games, entertainment, prize giveaways, and other activities at no cost to families who participate. The target audience is youth from kindergarten through sixth grade, but their parents and siblings are welcome to attend, Wilkinson says.
“Families are going to be out on that day, kids are going to be out on that day,” he says.
Sponsors are being solicited to help make the event, which began about five years ago, a successful and memorable occasion that coincides with Word of Life’s larger mission.
“It’s also an outreach of Word of Life Church,” Wilkinson says. “It’s a seeker event to help spread the word of Jesus Christ.”
CAUSE’s goal is to generate enough financial support to buy 200 to 300 winter coats for elementary-aged school children. The outreach effort is also designed to raise funds through sponsor support and donations to make a contribution to the Child Health and Development Fund, located at Community Foundation of Greater Flint. The fund was developed to support local youth impacted by the city’s water crisis.
Word of Life’s CAUSE program was established to add balance to the lives of youth through charity, character-building efforts, art, and other initiatives the program supports. CAUSE’s goal is to help strengthen areas of students’ experiences that enhance their education.
Candy Land has grown into one of Word of Life’s most eagerly anticipated and well-attended events. As many as 5,000 have participated, the church reports.
“When we first did this I said, ‘We’ll get 100, 200 people,’” Wilkinson recalls. “Man, people lined up, they stand in the rain. It’s a big deal.”
Even outside the church, as participants wait for the doors to open to the event, there are often cartoon characters and other performers who greet the children.
“There are decorations, there are all kinds of activities. It’s an experience from the time people walk in until the time that they leave,” Wilkinson says.
While “mountain of candy” is a huge draw, parents shouldn’t be overly concerned about their children’s sugar intake, since participants receive a handful each or sweets, says Wilkinson.
Costumes aren’t required, but even a few red devil outfits have been spotted passing through the church during earlier Candy Land events.
Adds Wilkinson, “We believe that the glory of Lord shines on them when they walk in.”
Editor’s Note: Potential sponsors or donors to Word of Life’s Candy Land event are asked to contact Michelle Hill at email@example.com or (810) 449-1462, or Jerome Threlkeld at firstname.lastname@example.org or (810) 845-5122.
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