The first children who trick-or-treated for UNICEF are likely drawing Social Security by now.  And the woman who started it all, Mary Emma Allison, passed away yesterday at the age of 93.  Mrs Allison was a Philadelphia woman who’s husband was a well known Presbyterian minister.  In a touching eulogy, USA for UNICEF’s chairwoman Caryl M. Stern recalls how it all began:

In late 1949, Mrs. Allison took her three young children to buy winter coats at Wannamaker’s store in Philadelphia. They came upon a parade of children and followed it to its destination: a booth collecting donations to help UNICEF purchase powdered milk for children in postwar Japan. Ms. Gertrude Ely, a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt who had organized the event, discussed UNICEF’s work with Mrs. Allison. Afterwards, Mrs. Allison rushed home to share the good news with her husband: she had found the perfect beneficiary for their campaign.

In anticipation of Halloween, 1950, Mrs. Allison wrote a passionate appeal, published nationally in the Presbyterian youth curriculum, asking children to collect spare change for UNICEF. And so Trick-Treat-for UNICEF was born. Through the years, many famous faces have championed Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF — from Presidents and First Ladies to celebrities; rock stars to cartoon characters. The program is still driven by grassroots enthusiasm, with teachers, volunteers, and especially children behind its ongoing success. Of course modern technology now plays its role, and it’s unlikely Mrs. Allison could have anticipated the current iPhone application.

It is equally unlikely that Mrs. Allison could have anticipated this light hearted sent up of “Do They Know this is Christmas” by a star studded group of indy rockers known as the “North American Hallowe’en Prevention Initiative” (NAHPI).  The benefits of 2005 single went to UNICEF Canada:

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Allison.  UNICEF and the Allison family has asked people to share their memories of Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF on their blog, Field Notes.

Get occasional updates from UN Dispatch

* indicates required

Want Our Social Media List?