Project Pumpkin will welcome hundreds of local children to campus

The Wake Forest University tradition also raises funds for Freedom School

Hearn Plaza at Wake Forest University will soon be filled with young children donning colorful Halloween costumes as part of Project Pumpkin.

This year’s event will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 24 from 3-6 p.m.

The student-led program will welcome more than 500 children to campus who attend Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools or afterschool programs at nonprofit organizations, including the Salvation Army and Latino Community Services.

Children will visit dozens of activity booths organized by Wake Forest University student groups and departments. This year’s theme is Under The Sea.

“The booths will have fun-filled activities and games that relate to the ocean. For example, one student organization will have one about buoyancy and saltwater,” said Alyssa Goldstein, student director. “Our goal is to give these young children knowledge and spark their curiosity to learn more about science concepts and reading. It’s also just a fun way to engage with kids and provide a memorable experience for them.”

A sweet treat will also be provided for children at each booth. Food Lion, a community partner with the University, is donating candy and other items.

Wake Forest student volunteers will create dozens of activity booths for Project Pumpkin.

Pulling all this together takes a lot of teamwork. Nearly 300 Wake Forest students will participate in various roles.

Goldstein, a senior from Hillsborough, New Jersey, has been involved with Project Pumpkin for the past three years. In her role as “head pumpkin,” she has learned a lot about managing budgets, collaborating across campus and working with local organizations.

But one aspect that she’s most proud of is the expansion of the program to meet kids where they are in the community by continuing an initiative that began during the pandemic.

Wake students will volunteer and help host activities at fall festivals organized by the City’s Recreation and Parks Department. The festivals will take place on Thursday, Oct. 26 from 6-8 p.m. at four recreation centers. Those sites are Miller Park, Sedge Garden, Old Town and Carl Russell.

“It’s an incredible feeling when you see kids and how happy they are to be on campus, the smiles on their faces, how excited they are when they take away something new they just learned from an activity or make a craft that they are proud of, ” added Goldstein.

For Cazandra Rebollar, assistant director of civic engagement at Wake Forest University, advising students during the planning process brings back a lot of memories. The Wake Forest alumna was also involved in Project Pumpkin as an undergraduate.

“The event is about connecting the campus community with the broader Winston-Salem community,” she said.

This marks the 36th year for Project Pumpkin.

The student-led event serves as a fundraiser for Wake Forest University’s Freedom School. This year’s goal is $2,500. Students are collecting donations and selling Project Pumpkin T-shirts.

Freedom School is a free, literacy-based summer enrichment program held on the Wake Forest campus for children in K-8th grades in Winston-Salem.

Media are invited to cover Project Pumpkin on Tuesday, October 24 from 3 – 6 p.m. on Hearn Plaza at Wake Forest University. Please check in at the media table in front of Wait Chapel. Wake Forest student leadership team members will be available for interviews. Contact Keri Brown or 336-758-4442.

UPDATE: See the photo story and the video from the 2023 event.

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