Normally, It Takes a Village (ITAV), a preschool and child development services nonprofit, would take kids out to the pumpkin patches in the suburbs. But this year, many pumpkin patches either didn’t open at all or didn’t allow daycares to bus kids in.
Aurelia Daniels, the nonprofit’s director of family and community engagement since this July, decided that, if they couldn’t bring the kids to the pumpkin patch, they were going to have to bring the pumpkin patch to the kids.
“We saw it as a way to engage the community and give kids something positive to do,” she said.
The resulting event, which was held on Oct. 23 at their West Humboldt Park location, 4000 W. Division St., exceeded expectations.
According to It Takes A Village officials, they expected around 300 families to register, but around 1,000 families ended up registering, and there were at least a few hundred people present at any given time.
ITAV started out as a West Humboldt Park preschool. Since opening in 2004, it’s added a second location in the South Loop, at 800 S. Wells St., and expanded its programming, adding an early childhood learning center, a training program for day care staff, a summer camp and a program that helps youth get into college.
ITAV spokesperson Tara Shedor said that, in response to the needs of the community during the pandemic, they organized weekly giveaways of diapers and other childcare supplies.
Daniels said that she thought it was important for them to organize an event where kids could hang out and play together.
“Our kids have been inside for 19 months,” she said. “They haven’t been able to play with each other and go outside. So, we see it as a way to bring safe fun to them.”
The pumpkin patch event was set up in the alley behind the daycare building and the daycare playground. It included pumpkin giveaways, a pumpkin decorating station, bounce houses, games, a petting zoo, and a children’s train that made loops along the alley and the nearby streets. Everything, including the food, was free.
Nakisha Hobbs, ITAV’s co-founder and current CEO, said that she was pleasantly surprised by how much interest the pumpkin patch generated. She said she appreciated the support from the community, as well as from Ald. Emma Mitts (37th).
“We’re just excited to have so many people come out and enjoy themselves,” Hobbs said. “It is an honor, a privilege and definitely a pleasure to give back.”
Natalie Randoph, of Austin, whose daughter attends the West Humboldt Park preschool, said that she hopes it won’t be a one-off event.
“I love it,” she said. “I would be back again. I think it’s great for the community and next year I’m going to try to volunteer.”