Trick-or-treaters scare up UNICEF donations

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 It takes maturity to trade candy for donations while trick-or-treating, but each year more children around the world are picking charity over chocolate as they participate in UNICEF's Trick-or-Treat program.

The nonprofit provides children and families in 156 countries with health care, including medicines and vaccines, as well as clean water, nutrition, education and emergency supplies.

"With our Trick-or-Treat program we aim to get youth involved in philanthropy and helping kids around the world," said Christine Squires, vice president of direct and interactive marketing for UNICEF, New York. "We educate them in order to raise money."

The program began in 1950 when a group of children in Philadelphia collected $17 in decorated milk cartons on Halloween to help children left vulnerable by World War II. Since then the organization has raised $132 million. Last year, half of the $5.2 million raised went to Hurricane Katrina relief.

"Trick-or-Treat is a year-round promotion," Ms. Squires said. "It is streamlined under our direct marketing group, and we send an August back-to-school mailing with a pre-filled kit and classroom materials followed by a postcard reminder in October and a recognition mailing in the spring."

The program targets schools and groups along with retail partners to distribute the materials.

For the first time, 3,500 Hallmark stores will offer the traditional orange Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF collection boxes throughout October. Also, select Hallmark stores will sell UNICEF Halloween greeting cards. Pier 1 Imports and Pier 1 Kids also partnered with the nonprofit to distribute the collection boxes at 1,200 stores nationwide.

Cartoon Network will provide public service announcements featuring characters from the show "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends," encouraging children to participate. The spots air through October on Cartoon Network, Boomerang, TNT, TBS and CNN as well as through participating cable affiliates. Donations also can be made at Coinstar Center's self-service coin-counting machines in supermarkets nationwide.

"We want to expand our outreach with organizations run by moms as well as to continue our success with schools and groups," Ms. Squires said.

Additions to this year's campaign include a redesigned Web site at www.unicef.org, blogs and new curriculum for educators.

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker has been appointed the new celebrity ambassador of the campaign. Ms. Parker trick-or-treated for UNICEF herself when she was a child. Proctor and Gamble signed on to sponsor the program and has provided promotional inserts for UNICEF.

"There are so many fundraising programs out there during Halloween, and we are fortunate to be the original," Ms. Squires said. "It is a challenge to reach individuals and to have them keep participating with us."

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