Sophie Bechard at the Plattsburgh Housing Authority Halloween Festival.
PLATTSBURGH — Dressed as a black cat, two-year-old Sophie Bechard sat on a toy tractor and examined her plastic pumpkin overflowing with candy.
“This was her first time trick or treating and safety was a big issue,” said her mother, Melissa.
So she took her daughter to Plattsburgh Housing Outlet’s 13th annual Halloween Festival.
“This is such a wonderful idea for families, and the weather is beautiful,” Bechard said.
The annual event draws hundreds of children and raises thousands of dollars for the Ronald McDonald House in Burlington, Vt.
This year, with the unseasonably warm weather the day of the event and worries that Hurricane Sandy would ruin trick-or-treating, the event drew its largest crowd ever.
“It started 13 years ago when my kids were little and I felt there was no safe place to trick-or-treat,” said Michelle LaBounty, Plattsburgh Housing Authority Marketing Director. “I thought it would be nice to get kids off the street.”
At the same time, The Ronald McDonald House called inquiring about fundraising possibilities. More than 70 percent of families that use the Ronald McDonald House are from the New York side of Lake Champlain.
“We thought we would ask for a $1 donation to raise money and keep it affordable,” LaBounty said.
That money, as well as funds collected from games and the raffle, benefit the families in need.
“I have never had a sick child and can only imagine how difficult it must be to cross the ferry and be an hour away,” LaBounty said.
Children arrived at the event in costume and played games, also visiting the model homes to trick-or-treat in a controlled environment. Local businesses and civic organizations sponsored individuals homes, staffing them and handing out treats.
Children were also entertained by magician Ishkabibble.
District 3 displayed a fire truck and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department provided fingerprint ID service.
Plattsburgh Housing Authority has raised more than $42,000 for the Ronald McDonald House through this event.
“We have turned this into something amazing and have a huge turnout,” LaBounty said. “This is our best year ever. Normally we get 300 kids and already this year we have 600 to 700 kids.”
Amanda Favreau wanted to make sure her son David Cannon didn’t miss out on trick-or-treating because of Hurricane Sandy.
“This is such a great idea,” she said. “It is awesome that they donate to the Ronald McDonald House.”
Cannon, who turned five that day and had just finished miniature golf, was eager to get to his next game.
“I want to pop the balloons.”