The weekend before Halloween I hit a few parties related to my volunteer work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
I usually do office work or airport pickups for them, but Evelynn asked me to help put together a send-off party for a child who was going to Disney World. She said she’d call me about the items I’d need to pick up at the store, but she ended up getting the cake and party favors.
I felt a little guilty when Evelynn presented to the child a calendar she’d made featuring Disney characters. I stood back talking cars and cigars with a couple guys. One of them told me that his friend owns cigar shops in town and that he lets the cigar company take photos for catalogs in his backyard. For letting them shoot there, this guy’s given free stogies. I said, “And you get to stand around watching models prance around your yard.”
We ate burgers and hot dogs and talked around the fire pit before heading out.
On Saturday, Make-A-Wish hosted a Halloween party for 250 people. Evelynn and I were on the committee and said we’d be there at 8 a.m. to help set up. I didn’t get there until 9 because I was driving up Ruffin Road trying to find the Cox building. I found a gas-station attendant who knew where the building was. He explained that Cox was on “Ruffner, not Ruffin.” I still arrived hours before the party started.
Everyone there already had jobs they were doing: two people were filling balloons with helium; others hung decorations on the walls; and a few people filled goodie bags.
One couple was setting up tables with costumes. In the past, we’d found the costumes to be a big hit with the kids who didn’t come dressed up...and even some that did, who decided they wanted to change into the Batman.
Suzanne, who works for Make-A-Wish, suggested I put balloons around the venue. I finished that project in about two minutes. Since we were running low on decorations, we decided to make our own out of construction paper. It seemed we were back in elementary school when a couple women and I teased each other about how to cut out the coolest bat, debating whether or not we should cut out little yellow eyes for them. I was turning the spiders into black widows by cutting them into hourglass shapes.
I asked my girlfriend to work a face-painting booth. My friend Tracy, who is a caricature artist, worked the party, too.
We got Hot Dog on a Stick to send us a few employees in their colorful uniforms. They did demonstrations and then let the kids participate in making lemonade.
As we were putting the finishing touches on things, I heard the deejay playing “I Kissed a Girl.” I told Suzanne we should make sure the deejay doesn’t play any songs that could be offensive.
When I heard her play “Greased Lightning” later, I figured most people wouldn’t even realize that there were risqué lyrics in that song.
I was bringing Tracy a slice of pizza at her station when I heard “Baby Got Back.” A 12-year-old girl said to her friend, “Why would they be playing this?”
There was a company there called the Mad Science Group. They offer programs that teach kids about science. Their demonstrations sometimes involve smoke and fire. They had the kids making slime and Silly Putty at the Make-A-Wish event.
The adults walking around seemed to be having as much fun as their kids. One guy had on a T-shirt that read, “This Invisible Man costume is defective.”
I was on the committee for putting this party together, but I must’ve been napping at the meeting when they talked about decorating cookies. Kids had plates of cookies and choices of frostings to decorate with. I took an oatmeal cookie to slather with red frosting. As I was putting the finishing touches on it, I overheard a 14-year-old girl say to her friend, “This is where diabetes starts.” I’d submit that the starting point might be the buckets and buckets of candy bars at the entrance, but the adults made more trips back there than the kids.
The deejay played all the usual Halloween songs, such as “Monster Mash” and some numbers from Rocky Horror.
My duty for the party was monitoring the Moon Bounce, which was outside. Every time I checked on it, though, nobody was out there. So, I walked around the party eating candy and cookies.
I watched as one kid crushed lemons. His mom encouraged him to put on one of the colorful hats, but he was at an age where that wouldn’t be cool.
Another topic I must have missed at the meeting was the explanation of what the “big animals” were. Turned out they were people in animal costumes who walked around taking photos with the kids and then making buttons with the photos.
On one of my trips out to the Moon Bounce, I stopped to talk with a guy named Brian who has a Volkswagen painted to look like Herbie the Love Bug. I noticed that it was autographed by some of the cast members, including Lindsay Lohan. He bought it after it was used in the demolition-derby scenes in the movie. The studio didn’t want to sell it to him because of safety concerns. He fixed it up and now takes it to events for children. He’s a former UCSD student living near L.A., but he was willing to drive down for this party.
When I noticed that one of the kids wouldn’t get out of the driver’s seat while other kids were waiting to get in, I tried talking him into coming with me to the pumpkin-painting table. He was having none of that, though.
I went and started painting a pumpkin to look like Herbie, thinking that would entice him. After painting on the number 53 with the stripes, I told the child’s mom the pumpkin was for him. I didn’t want her to think that he was leaving with someone else’s creation. I was also hinting that maybe she should get her son and walk him around. Brian stepped in and had him and the other kids tape teeth to the hood of the car to make it look as if Herbie had teeth. There was no getting the little boy away from the car at that point.
I watched as Brian helped a kid poke his head through the sunroof for a photo, and he told me a story about a buddy who owns a replica of the Batmobile. One of the makers of the real Batmobile left a note on the car stating that it wasn’t an “official creation” of his.
I had been at the party almost seven hours and was getting tired. The kids were starting to leave, and things were wrapping up. I grabbed some trash off the table to help clean. My girlfriend had packed her stuff, and we were told that they had things covered. I was relieved as I headed out the door and wondered if it was worth getting up so early on a Saturday. I knew I’d be tired the rest of the day, and I had two parties to crash later that night.
Then I saw a child in a wheelchair who had a button in one hand, a brownie in the other, and a huge smile on her face.
Next year, I’ll be there at 5:00 a.m. if they need me.