As Halloween approaches, I fondly remember turning 11 and attending the United Nations International School (UNIS) in New York and my days with the orange box collecting pennies and sometimes a quarter for UNICEF. As a youngster, I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. Then I just heard that on October 30e in Times Square in New York Wonderama and UNICEF USA and others participated in the biggest Halloween parade in history. So I thought it would be great to catch up with Michael J. Nyenhuis, President and CEO of UNICEF USA and learn more about Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF!
Robert Reiss: A lot of us are familiar with Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, but maybe don’t know the context. Can you share?
Michael Nyenhuis: Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has a proud heritage of children helping children. It’s 71st year of the iconic initiative, which started as a small local event to collect extra coins in old milk cartons during Halloween to support children around the world in the aftermath of WWII. It has become the longest-running youth engagement campaign in the country.
You mentioned that you did Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. I did it too. Beyond the funds raised throughout the campaign, she inspired a generation of global citizens who realized that small actions can make a difference for their peers around the world.
Reiss: Trick-or-Treating has looked different in recent years during the pandemic – what has been the impact on the program?
Nyenhuis: Like so many other things in our lives, we have had to find different ways to celebrate. Last year, the program went virtual for the first time. We were hoping to find ways to recreate the fun things about Halloween – like costumes and games – in a way that protects everyone while allowing them to add “meaning to their Halloween”.
This year, we are keeping the digital format. Families, groups and schools can start their own virtual fundraiser to raise small change that adds up to a big impact. These donations are especially important because they will support UNICEF’s work to immunize the world against COVID-19. As the world’s largest buyer of vaccines each year, we have the expertise and logistics to support the largest and fastest vaccine effort ever. Children can play a real role in supporting our work through this campaign. For example, $ 37 raised will allow 10 people to receive 2 doses of a COVID vaccine. We know the pandemic isn’t over until it’s over for everyone.
And the fun is still there! With UNICEF Kid Power kids can participate in dance activities and videos to get active and celebrate while giving back. We’re also joining Wonderama for an exciting virtual Halloween parade.
Reiss: I want to ask you a question about the Wonderama show. Why was it important to participate in this?
Nyenhuis: Play is an essential part of a child’s life. It promotes healthy development and a good start in life. The Wonderama Parade will be a fun time for kids across the country to dress up and celebrate Halloween together, with a live broadcast from Times Square.
“Wonderama is about never losing your sense of wonder and nothing is more wonderful than the work UNICEF is doing to immunize the world,” said Wonderama CEO Charles Armstrong. “Much like Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, Wonderama has been a family tradition since the 1950s and as an educational / information program, much like UNICEF USA, we are here to serve. This unique event also gives us the opportunity to show the importance of teaching philanthropy from an early age; it makes us all better citizens, and we all know that charitable children make adults happier.
Reiss: The great legacy of this program presents a great business and branding opportunity – what was it like?
Nyenhuis: For us, it’s about adding meaning to vacations in a way that elevates what families are already doing. We’ve been so happy to have so many supporters over the years, from families like yours and mine to businesses and community partners.
We have been working with Kiwanis International programs around Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF since 1994, and this year Key Club International and Circle K International are participating again to raise funds for water and sanitation programs. in Haiti. These long-standing collaborations are particularly important this year, with increased needs due to the ongoing pandemic.
Reiss: What does the future of Trick-or-Treat look like?
Nyenhuis: We want to continue to build on the legacy of the program. Alongside impactful partners, we want to build a new generation of engaged global citizens who feel empowered to use their actions and voices to create change.
This year marks the 75e anniversary of UNICEF’s work around the world. What started as a way to support children after WWII is now an innovative global organization that works in communities to create solutions in more than 190 countries around the world. We have over 13,000 colleagues around the world who work every day to support their communities. It is a great mission to pass on to the Americans. We are up to the challenge. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is an exciting way to share our mission and encourage families to join us.