In Illinois, one girl's mission to collect Halloween costumes for charity

Susana Martin and her mother say they've given away about 800 character ensembles over the past three years or so. 'I just think it's good to help people,' Susana says.

Alexander F. Yuan/AP
Children, some dressed in their Halloween costumes, play in a hay maze at the Bronx Zoo in New York on Sunday, Oct. 23.

There's bound to be a few more princesses, lions, superheroes and more knocking on doors looking for treats this Halloween in DeKalb and Sycamore, Ill., after one student has made sure that kids have costumes.

Susana Martin continued a tradition this year that she started about three years ago. The 12-year-old Sycamore Middle School seventh-grader collected scores of Halloween costumes that she then donated to area nonprofit organizations.

"There are a lot of charities about Christmas and holidays like that," Martin said. "But there weren't really any charities for Halloween, and I think there should be."

So after reading in a magazine about another tween who held a similar drive, Martin decided she would do it here. Over the past few weeks, she had bins set up at places such as the Kishwaukee YMCA and DeKalb and Sycamore libraries where people could drop off donations of Halloween costumes.

"I like giving things to people who don't have them. I just think it's good to help people," she said.

Some of the ones given to Martin's Halloween Costume Club, as she has named it, were new and still in the package. Others were gently used, and her mom helped her to sort, clean and put them on hangers. While the idea for the club is the youngster's own, she acknowledges that Mom helps to do a lot of the legwork.

Over the years she has had her costume club, Martin and her mother, Jeanette, report giving away about 800 character ensembles. This year, about 160 were given away, they said. Distribution was divided among Salem Lutheran Church's food pantry in Sycamore and Safe Passage domestic violence shelter and Barb Food Mart – both in DeKalb.

"I'm amazed at how kind people are," Jeanette Martin said.

But she also is proud of what her daughter is doing.

"I am very proud of her. I like that she took ownership," Jeanette said. "I hope that some of this will stay with her as she grows up, to remember to think of other people first."

News of the club has spread among some of their neighbors, family and friends, Jeanette said. Although Susana sets the collection bins out in late September, her mom said, people have started to think of the Halloween Costume Club when they do spring cleaning earlier in the year or know before the official collection time that they have costumes to give.

The mother-daughter team made the last drop-off of costumes recently with the delivery to Barb Food Mart.

Becky Mascal was amazed at the heap of race car driver, clown, popular blue train engine, crayon and other character costumes that Susana pulled from the family van. Mascal, a Barb Food Mart board member, praised her for being a youth looking out for other young people.

Barb Food Mart runs a pantry that families of kids who attend school in DeKalb School District 428 are able to access. She said volunteers at the pantry will lay out the costumes, and parents will be able to select one for their children.

"I think it's just so amazing to have anybody donating, but especially when kids are getting started so young and finding out how much people can use the stuff, and how much good they can do," said Mascal, who is also a sixth-grade teacher at Huntley Middle School. "Hopefully, maybe some other kids will see it" and pick up on such ideas.

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