Calgary man repurposes Halloween costumes to help his community

Spookin’ on a budget: Kevin McIntosh’s Halloween Repurpose with a Purpose initiative has encouraged Calgarians to help each other out finding new homes for old Halloween costumes each year, free of charge. He hopes that this initiative will continue to be an annual tradition, and other set-ups will be started in a variety of neighborhoods around the city. (Photo by Taylor Rosner/The Press)

With the financial burden that Halloween puts on some families looming, Calgarian Kevin McIntosh has set out to help struggling families in the city by making the holiday more affordable.

McIntosh lives in a townhouse complex in northeast Calgary and is in his second year of his costume exchange, Halloween Repurpose with a Purpose initiative.

“I just put the costumes out on a rack on my front lawn with a sign reading ‘Times are tough, please take a costume if you need,’” said McIntosh.

The initiative began last year, when McIntosh found a bunch of old costumes in his basement and decided to offer them to others, instead to throwing them out.

He set out more than 20 costumes, and all of them disappeared.

But this year, as the initiative gains momentum and media attention, McIntosh estimates that 200 have come and gone.

“It’s a pretty cool thing to see what Calgarians can do,” he said.

“I just wish that more setups around the city could happen, so that every neighborhood could have a new and exciting Halloween each year without the financial pressure,” said Karen Hughes, a mother of two young children who live in a townhouse complex in southwest Calgary.

She said that as a single mom, holidays can be all about added stress and that initiatives such as McIntosh’s are so simple, but have such a significant, positive effect on the community.

“It takes zero effort to show a little kindness. What started out as me just trying to help a few kids has blown up, and I’m amazed and proud of the people of this city,” said McIntosh.

The condo board in the complex that McIntosh lives in has asked him to take down his signs, with the threat of having to face fines as a consequence of leaving them up.

But McIntosh said that even with that, the message of positivity and helping out the community has just seemed to grow stronger.

“There will always be someone that has an issue with someone else, but you can’t live in the space of negativity. Accept it and move on, when you look at the big picture, the kindness outweighs the negative every time.”

Post-secondary student Jamie Schiissler is studying to be an elementary school teacher and said that all of the time she spends around kids while building her resume has opened her eyes to the lives of kids.

“You really have to wonder what goes on in the life of each child outside of day camps or school each day,” she said.

Schiissler said that around all holidays, you have to wonder if children worry about having a costume, due to the pressures it places on each family.

“I think this initiative is incredible,” said Schiissler.

“It really goes to show that it takes a village to raise a child, and makes each one feel included and loved.”

McIntosh said that the initiative is based around the need and that he doesn’t ever see himself stopping what has now become his own Halloween tradition.

What inspires me to continue this initiative is knowing that somewhere out there, a little boy or girl gets to have a better Halloween because of the kindness of strangers. —Kevin McIntosh

If anyone has costumes they would like to donate, they are invited to drop them off at McIntosh’s Calgary home in Marlborough Park at 12 Georgian Villas N.E.

“The thought is to make it just a little easier on parents’ wallets,” said McIntosh.

“What inspires me to continue this initiative is knowing that somewhere out there, a little boy or girl gets to have a better Halloween because of the kindness of strangers.”