HAYWARD, Calif. -- For grown-ups, Halloween might not mean much more than an evening of handing out sweets to adorable, socially sanctioned panhandlers.
But it can be a big deal for children -- one that requires a costume -- and police wanted to make sure that the city's underprivileged kids got to join the masquerade this year.
"Every single elementary school will have a Halloween parade, and we were sad to find out some kids will sit out because they don't have a costume," Sgt. Dave Lundgren said. "We wanted to do something about it."
Lundgren and the rest of the 15-member night patrol division went into action.
They hit up vendors, and struck pay dirt: Spirit donated 115 outfits, Party City 150 more. Target, Costco and the American Licorice Co. tossed in money and goodies. To round it out, the police chipped in about $900 through the officers association and by passing the hat around the station.
As a result, about 300 children and teens will upgrade from spectator to participant in festivities this year.
The costumes were distributed to kids at Hayward schools, including Burbank, Palma Ceia and Tyrrell elementary schools, as well as the Family Emergency Shelter Coalition in Hayward.
"They're very excited about this, and curious," said Carla Belle, a program director with the emergency shelter coalition as she collected costumes Friday morning. "They're all waiting for me to come back right now."
Officer Matt Shea coordinated the effort, finding out who needed what. It's no easy task, getting hundreds of costumes for kids ages 2 through teen -- that's not a one-size-fits-all range, and costume themes are rarely androgynous.
"I was overwhelmed," said Shea, who used multiple spreadsheets to keep track of everything. "To say the least, we were scrambling."
But in the end, Shea said, it was all worth it. They plan on continuing the program in years to come.
"We need to give back to the community, give a little help to the kids who are less fortunate," he said. "Some of the families are having a hard time affording food -- how can they get costumes? We need to make sure these little guys have a great Halloween, too."
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