Teens host Halloween party for special-needs students

By: Thomas Franz | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published November 6, 2015

MACOMB COUNTY — Austin Catholic High School seniors Hannah Burke and Tiffany Lacap had been working on this since school began in August.

Their senior Christian service project, a requirement to graduate from Austin, took place on Halloween morning when they hosted students with special needs for a Halloween party on the school’s grounds.

“A lot of schools do the trunk-or-treat thing, so we wanted to do something that was different than that,” Burke said. “We also wanted to do something that hasn’t been done in our school yet. We’ve been thinking about something since last year because we knew we had to do something, and just doing different service projects made us realize how we wanted to help.”

Burke and Lacap personally communicated with administrators from Eppler Junior High in Utica, Glen H. Peters School in Macomb Township and Endeavour Middle School in Ray Township to invite their students to the event.

Lacap has a younger brother with special needs at Eppler, and Burke is an aspiring special education teacher.

They set up several activities for the event, including face painting, trick-or-treating, pumpkin painting, cookie decorating, crafts, games and movies.

The students fundraised $360 to put on the event, and they also received donations from school parents and teachers, as well as nearby cider mills and apple orchards, which donated pumpkins and donuts for the event.

“Each one of those students will now take on a responsibility of doing a Christian service within the school,” said Deacon Dennis Loffreda. “They do their own fundraising, and if they fall short, we kind of pump it up with the parents association. They have been working on this for a very long time.”

Burke said they got the idea from a couple of senior projects completed by last year’s seniors.

“Helping out with a Christmas carnival for underprivileged kids last year, that’s kind of how we got our idea, so we wanted to do our own thing like that,” Burke said. “I’ve wanted to be a special education teacher since I can remember, so it really made me think of them and what I want to do.”

Austin students are required to complete 100 hours of Christian service throughout their four years at the school in order to graduate. The senior project acts as a capstone to those service projects.

“When they reach senior level, it’s more of taking on that responsibility for themselves,” Loffreda said. “The hours are only to inspire them to do the Christian service, but when you get to this level, it becomes a passion of what we want to do for the community. That’s what we’re hoping to do, is raise good Christians and good community members through that.”

Burke and Lacap are the first students of Austin’s 13-member senior class to fulfill the service project requirement, but other students at the Ray Township school already have arrangements to host other events, including ones to help military veterans and the homeless.

“We encourage underclassmen to come and help them, especially the seniors, to let the underclassmen come and help you in your event with the intention of you now going and helping the next group doing it,” Loffreda said. “We never discourage if they have an idea. We say to put it down on paper to see how it looks, and they (Burke and Lacap) were passionate about doing Halloween and doing their own thing.”