September 10, 2014
Through ’Ween Dream, a nonprofit volunteer group, Valerie Gernhauser (L ’09), Kelsey Meeks (L ’10), Alli Scott Craig and Tara Benoit Rodrigue, a 2014 Tulane continuing studies graduate, are providing Halloween costumes to children who can’t otherwise afford them.
Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano
Surrounded by tutus, masks, swords and other kid-costume components, Kelsey Meeks (L ’10) and Valerie Gernhauser (L ’09) patiently sorted donated garb, determined that no child should get priced out of Halloween.
They’re volunteer collaborators in ’Ween Dream, a national, New Orleans-based nonprofit aimed at outfitting children in need, wherever they live. . ‘Ween Dream accepts new and gently used costumes, and the goal is to provide costumes for 500 kids this year.
Meeks said she founded the organization in the belief that all kids should get to participate in Halloween, even if their families can’t afford increasingly expensive costumes.
“Every other day of the year may be out of their control, but Halloween belongs to kids,” said Meeks, an associate at Wall, Bullington & Cook.
More than 200 guests attended a recent ’Ween Dream launch party, many of them Tulane Law alumni.
“Tulane people ‘get it’ – they’ve lived in New Orleans and know that costumes are a part of everyday life here. So helping kids share that part of our culture is a no-brainer for them,” she said.
Halloween lets kids be kids, which can be especially significant for children facing difficulties at home or those who are homeless.
“Dressing up for Halloween is something so simple that we take for granted yet means so much to a child to forget the challenges they experience every day and become someone else,” said Gernhauser, who runs Sapphire Events, an events design and planning business.
Meeks got the idea for ‘Ween Dream after collecting costumes for kids in the Youth Empowerment Project’s afterschool program, she said, and her law school experiences — getting interested in public service, learning leadership and organizational skills on the Tulane Law Review — prepared her to launch a nonprofit.
“What I did at Tulane Law gave me the confidence to go out and build this organization instead of waiting and hoping someone else would start it,” she said.
Legal skills also proved invaluable. The group’s board members include two other attorneys and a paralegal in addition to Meeks and Gernhauser, and they were able to file their own incorporating documents and recently received 501(c)(3) status.
To donate costumes or money, please visit the website at www.weendream.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.