Healthy treats no Hal­loween trick

Cana­dian cities of­fer recre­ational passes as a sub­sti­tute for all that candy

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - JEN­NIFER GRA­HAM

REGINA — The glee­ful “trick or treat” that chil­dren shout when they call at houses on Hal­loween is get­ting a health­ier re­sponse in some cities across Canada.

In­stead of candy, lit­tle ghosts and gob­lins on some doorsteps are get­ting passes to go swim­ming, skat­ing and even ski­ing.

The On­tario city of Corn­wall started sell­ing Hal­loween swim- and-skate passes in 2012.

Aquatic co-or­di­na­tor Lori Gibeau says the city started with 1,000 passes, but the pro­gram proved so pop­u­lar that it now of­fers 1,500.

“And we have sold out every year that we have been do­ing this.”

The Hal­loween passes are sold in packs of 10 for $10. Each pass is good for a child or stu­dent ad­mis­sion to a leisure swim or pub­lic skate and is valid from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

Gibeau, who is a mom to two teenage girls, be­lieves the passes are pop­u­lar for sev­eral rea­sons, in­clud­ing that they en­cour­age fam­ily bond­ing time and are a good price.

Nor­mally, a one-time child fee for swim­ming is $3.92.

“It might give peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to get in­volved in some re­cre­ation ac­tiv­i­ties that they might not nec­es­sar­ily have a chance to. It’s a healthy al­ter­na­tive to the candy over­load. You don’t have to worry about hand­ing some­thing out that may cause an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion,” she says.

“Some peo­ple... use them for the lit­tle, lit­tle ones where they don’t think that they nec­es­sar­ily need candy, so in­stead of giv­ing a bag of chips out to a two-year-old, they might give this out in­stead.”

Melissa Coderre with Regina’s re­cre­ation depart­ment says the city used to give out passes to trick-or-treaters who went to recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties on Hal­loween. The pro­gram was ex­panded in 2014 so the pub­lic could buy passes and give them out for a “bal­anced Hal­loween ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“It’s not just about (re­cre­ation) or it’s not just about candy. It’s about both,” she says. “And it also pro­vides the com­mu­nity an al­lergy-con­scious al­ter­na­tive to give out to kids who can’t have candy.”

Teach­ers like passes for stu­dents, too, she adds.

In Regina, the passes for a pub­lic skate or swim are sold in pack­ages of 10 for $5. They don’t ex­pire.

They went on sale af­ter Thanks­giv­ing, but peo­ple started call­ing to ask about them in Au­gust, Coderre says.

“We’ve sold out of our passes every year that we’ve done this pro­gram, and every year we’ve ex­panded the num­ber of passes that we’ve sold by 5,000. The first year we printed 5,000 and this year we’re print­ing 20,000.

“Last year we sold out maybe within a week.”

Kids who get Hal­loween passes in Strath­cona County, just out­side Ed­mon­ton, can use them for swim­ming, skat­ing and cross-coun­try ski­ing.

Jen­nifer Wil­son with the county’s re­cre­ation ser­vices says the pro­gram started in 2013 af­ter of­fi­cials saw healthy Hal­loween pro­grams in Cal­gary, Leth­bridge, Alta., and Ottawa.

“We weren’t re­ally sure what to ex­pect... but now that it’s been an an­nual on­go­ing thing, peo­ple watch for it every year and they are su­per-ex­cited to jump on it and get them,” Wil­son says.

“It’s been a re­ally, re­ally good pro­gram.”

This year, the county printed 2,500 book­lets of 10 tick­ets each. A book of 10 sells for $5. All pro­ceeds are do­nated to a play pro­gram aimed at in­creas­ing recre­ational ac­cess for lower-in­come res­i­dents.

The passes ex­pire af­ter the school Christ­mas break ends.

Wil­son says peo­ple are see­ing the value of mov­ing be­yond hand­ing out candy.

“That’s re­ally what we’re try­ing to do, is try­ing to shift the cul­ture and shift peo­ple’s be­hav­iours to see­ing that be­ing ac­tive and play­ing and hav­ing fun re­ally is the treat.”

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