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All Treat, No Tricks As UNICEF Fundraiser Turns 60

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All Treat, No Tricks As UNICEF Fundraiser Turns 60

Arts & Life

All Treat, No Tricks As UNICEF Fundraiser Turns 60

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For many years now, some people who trick or treat at Halloween aren't just collecting candy, they're also collecting money in�little cardboard boxes. Trick or Treat for UNICEF is what it's called. On its 60th anniversary, the United Nation's Children's Fund is unveiling an iPhone application. And the family who had the original idea�is still talking it up. NPR's Margot Adler reports.�

MARGOT ADLER: A few years after World War II ended,�Mary Emma Allison, the wife of a Presbyterian minister,�came upon a UNICEF parade in downtown Philadelphia with a live cow, children dressed in costumes from many lands, and a banner saying one cent will buy 20 glasses of milk. It gave her the idea of collecting for UNICEF on Halloween. Micky Allison, now in her sixties, remembers that her mother, a teacher, would take those small empty cartons of milk.

Ms. MICKY ALLISON: When the kids finished with them at school, she would bring them home and we would wash them, in soapy water, and we put an orange arm band around it and�then it progressed into the orange boxes.

ADLER: The idea caught on after Reverend Clyde Allison published an article in a church newsletter. The Allison children went out every Halloween.�Monroe Allison and his sister Mary Jean�remember their father telling them that a penny represented so many glasses of milk, so many vaccines, so many mosquito nets. And as he went trick or treating, Monroe Allison would think...

Mr. MONROE ALLISON: That's the penny for the milk. Now I have to collect for the vaccination.

Ms. MARY JEAN ALLISON: We understood that a dime fed a�lot of children.

ADLER: Trick or Treat for UNICEF has raised more than $160 million overall. It funds children's healthcare, nutrition, education in over 150 countries and territories.�Over the years, it has been promoted by scores of celebrities and featured on television shows ranging from "Bewitched" to "Lassie."

(Soundbite of dog barking)

Unidentified Child #1: Trick or treat, trick or treat for UNICEF.

ADLER: Donations rose for the first 25 years. Then they leveled off at little more than $2 million a year. One problem was confusion in the minds of the public between UNICEF and UNESCO.

The United States left UNESCO in 1984, saying the U.N. agency was beholden to the Soviet block and angry that it had condemned Zionism as equivalent to racism.�The U.S. rejoined UNESCO in 2003. But to this day, teachers often come across parents who say UNICEF is unfriendly to Israel, and they have to explain to them that they are confusing two organizations.

Kini Schoop is director of Public Relations for the U.S. fund for UNICEF.�

Ms. KINI SCHOOP (Director of Public Relations, UNICEF): There were some years where it was pretty stagnant. It's definitely picked up.

ADLER: The program is now taking in a little over $4 million a year. Most of the collections come from ten big states, including California, New York and Texas. About 2.6 million kids and teens participated last year.

Lucy Reuben has been organizing Trick or Treat for UNICEF for years at PS 3, a public school in Greenwich Village. The most important thing she says, is teaching kids about social responsibility.

Ms. LUCY REUBEN: And that we have to take care of each other. That's why we're on the earth.

ADLER: Reuben would do things like take the kids to the stock exchange.�

Ms. REUBEN: And they walked around to all the, like, brokers and everything. And they got really a lot of money, like $4,000 in an hour.

ADLER: She was sitting around with fifth graders Zoe Teper, Lila Coley and Zeke Fine.�

Unidentified Child #2: It's really amazing what you can do with, like, $4,000. You could save a lot of kids.

Unidentified Child #3: Usually I go on the bus home, just by walking with my box, people - I don't even have to ask - they just put money in.

ADLER: Of course, most�children who will�take those orange boxes out this Sunday will simply go to their neighbors, as children have done for six decades.�

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Woman: It's trick or treat for UNICEF.

Unidentified Group of Children: That's why we rang your bell...

ADLER: Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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