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Rev. Allison's legacy

May 03, 2009|By KEVIN MORIARTY

I'm writing as a former staffer, and current supporter of the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF (United Nations Childrens Fund) Trick-or-Treat campaign. Rarely are we given an opportunity to pay tribute to an individual who has had as profound an impact on UNICEF's work as the Rev. Clyde Allison of Lowell, Indiana. He was a valuable guide and an inspiration to many people. His example meant much to about serving the needs of people, particularly our children. On his passing this week at age 91, I'd like to tell you his story.

In 1950, the pain of World War II was still fresh in the minds of Americans as the world struggled to heal and rebuild. At that time, Reverend Allison was responsible for creating the Sunday School curriculum for the Presbyterian Church. When his children expressed concern for the children suffering from hunger, cold and sickness in the wake of the war, Reverend Allison initiated a way for them to take action.

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On Halloween night, the three Allison children got dressed in costumes to trick-or-treat but, instead of asking for candy for themselves, they asked for donations to UNICEF. The kids used empty milk cartons to collect the change and raised $17 their first year. Reverend Allison also saw to it that all of the Presbyterian churches participated in this program as part of Sunday school curriculum.

In the nearly 59 years since that Halloween experiment, the program has raised more than $148 million to save children's lives. Milk cartons gave way to the iconic orange collection boxes, which became ubiquitous in schools across the country. In the minds and hearts of Americans, the UNICEF brand is inextricably linked with "Trick-or-Treat." For many Americans, it was their first philanthropic experience, and it simply made them feel good to be able to take action to help children in need.

In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared October "National UNICEF Month" in recognition of the unique mission of the "Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" program and the sense of caring it instilled in children. Through the years, many famous faces have championed "Trick-or-Treat" from first ladies to A-list celebrities, rock stars and cartoon characters. Teachers, children and volunteers still run the program at the grassroots level, all these years later, and modern technology has expanded the program to include "virtual" trick- or-treating.

One thing remains constant, and that is the purity of the program. Namely, the feeling of empowerment and pride a young child experiences when she counts up the $1.47 in her box and realizes that she's raised enough money to provide drinking water for one child for more than a month! And the certainty that she and her teachers feel, knowing that the funds will indeed help real children to be saved, educated and protected.

Reverend Allison and his beloved wife, Mary Emma, dedicated themselves to raising a close-knit family and serving their community with humility and compassion. (He was also a pioneering advocate for racial equality, and children and women's rights.)

Reverend Allison's legacy is rooted in kindness and goodness, and a fundamental belief in the dignity and worth of all children. Because of Reverend Allison, untold numbers of children's lives have been saved and improved over the course of 60 years. In the process, he inspired generations of American children to follow their hearts and forgo Halloween candy for something much more important.

The entire UNICEF family extends its most heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Allison, children Mary Jean (Dr. Cameron) Thompson of Riverwoods, I.L., Mickey Allison of Cedar Lake and Monroe (Diane) Allison of New York and all of Reverend Allison's grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Our debt to Reverend Allison is enormous, and we remember him with respect, gratitude and love. Undoubtedly, the millions of children we serve would say the same, as would millions of American "Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" veterans.

Kevin Moriarty of Hagerstown is the former manager of congressional relations and Metro DC/Baltimore programs of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

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