On Saturday, October 6th, sounds of monsters howling, haunting voices, and children shrieking could be heard from a darkened room in the basement of the Greenpoint YMCA. Suddenly, the door burst open, and parents and their children came spilling out, many shouting variations of “That was so scary!” and “I’m never going in there again!”
This was the “Haunted House,” one of many activities families could participate in at the Greenpoint Y’s celebration of the Worldwide Day of Play (WWDOP). The event incorporated several components. “It’s part of the Worldwide Day of Play, but we also combine a Halloween ‘Spooky Fest’ with a membership promotion as well. We usually have about 200-300 families who come out for this,” said Troy Calhoun, a Y Director who helped coordinate the event.
The WWDOP is an annual event sponsored by Nickelodeon, which encourages parents and children to get off the couch and enjoy outdoor activity together. “Nickelodeon does this by turning off their programming during the day,” explained Calhoun. “So the kids stop watching the TV and start being active.”
YMCAs across the country participate in the event, including many fitness organizations from around the world. At the Greenpoint Y, kids could enjoy hula hoops, jump rope, ring tosses, basketball tosses, a bouncy castle, and more. There were also plenty of healthy activities for adults: a food demo on how to cook butternut squash soup, complimentary massages, and spinning lessons on stationary bicycles. “We’re very excited about our new spinning class,” said the Y’s Executive Director, Keith Hicks. Plus, attendees were offered free healthy food, such as fruit, cereal, water, and juice.
For children who wanted to enjoy a more traditional Halloween experience, there were complimentary bags of candy. Other Halloween-themed events included face painting, coloring pumpkins, and the haunted house. “The haunted house is our most popular event,” said Calhoun. “All of the staff gets together to decorate it, then dresses up to play the characters that jump out to scare the kids.”
“I don’t jump out to scare the kids, I just play the ‘mad scientist’ who shows them all the creepy stuff in the lab-OR-atory,” joked one staff member in a fake Transylvanian accent, dressed in a bloody-stained lab coat and frazzled wig. Some children were delighted by the haunted house, while others were frightened. Fortunately, for the younger tots there was a “happy house,” where they could munch on snacks and juice, and put their hands in “Halloween feel boxes” filled with peeled grapes and noodles. Many kids (and some of their parents) were decked out in costumes.
One child, Devlin, was dressed as a ninja. When asked if his father was a member of the Y, Devlin declared, “No, but I’m a member!” His father, Jim added, “We have a good time coming here. My sons’ favorite part is the haunted house. They’re going back to do it again, actually.” Jim was visiting his sons and their mother, who live in Greenpoint. “The Y does something fun for Halloween every year,” Jim said. “We’ve been coming for awhile now, and we also do after-school care here.”
Last but not least, the event was a membership promotion. Adults could learn about the various programs the Y offers, such as after-school care and family swim sessions. “If you join [the Y] by October 8th, you also get the $80 joiner’s fee waived,” said Hicks. “So you start your membership for free, whether it’s an adult or family membership.” If you didn’t sign up for the Y in time, don’t worry. “We offer you to join for free in May and January, too,” said Calhoun.
“Here, we’re about healthy lifestyles, social development, and social responsibility,” said Hicks. “Our theme right now is ‘Jumpstart your life—join the Y. For the health-seeker or the avid workout person, we have the resources for what people want. And as the demographic of Greenpoint changes, we cater to that demographic.”
For more information about the Y and their programs, please visit www.ymcanyc.org/greenpoint.
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