On Oct. 31, Erica Clarke got her kids into their princess and sheep costumes for Halloween. But, instead of going door to door to trick or treat, they were doing something different this year. They were going to a trunk or treat event.
Clarke organized the event in partnership with the Okanagan Indian Band’s (OKIB) health and wellness team. Community members were invited to drive to decorate their cars and serve candy out of their trunks.
“We’ve all had a really tough year,” says Clarke. “It’s just an opportunity to bring us all back together because especially in our culture, being together is a part of our healing and not having that it’s, it’s really tough.”
Many OKIB members were evacuated during the summer due to the White Rock Lake wildfire, which destroyed homes and businesses in the community.
The event was an important part of remembering the power of community unity, says Clarke.
“Everything going on in the community, there hasn’t been a lot for our youth. So I thought that was really important to give something back,” says Clarke.
Community comes together
Clarke was motivated to have an event so that youth could get together and build kinship, she says. That’s why she applied and received a grant through the Jays Care Foundation. OKIB’s health and wellness team also got a sponsorship for the event though Bird Construction.
“The original intent was to do a big community event in the summer, however, with the wildfires and everything, it just kept getting pushed back,” she says.
So, instead, Clarke put the funds into the Halloween event. She organized this event while working her full-time job, and caring for her family.
After a year of many losses from fires, COVID-19, and the uncovering of the 215 unmarked children’s graves, the community needed to come together in an effort to uplift, says Clarke.
Isabel Belyk, also an OKIB member who was born and raised in the community, woke her little ones up from a nap to head out the door that day.
Although Belyk was dressed as a skeleton for the evening’s event, she was really a Supermom dressing up her two little dragons in the back of her vehicle where she would soon set up her trunk for the occasion.
“Being at this event was bittersweet as most events are these days,” she says. “This past year had been strange, difficult and heartbreaking.
It’s strange my kids are growing up in a world completely different than how our parents all grew up.”
But, she adds, it was nice to see so many people.
“There was food and hot chocolate provided, there were kids everywhere it was great,” she says.
About 100 people attended and a lot of candy was handed out.
Both Clarke and Belyk share that as the holiday season moves in it’s important to keep the hope and ensure the children are always feeling safe and supported in the coming year.
“I just hope we can keep coming together and you know, find those moments where we can all get together,” says Clarke. Belyk she hopes for much the same.
“Having lost loved ones to COVID is heartbreaking,” says Belyk.
“There’s fear and uncertainty in our present and future. We try to do our part to protect those we have left. Hopefully, at some point next year will start to resemble life as we knew it. We would love to gather again without the fear of carrying a deadly illness into the community or into our homes.”
In the meantime, Clarke is already busily preparing for winter. With the Blue Jays Cares Foundation grant she received she is also going to be preparing 30 hampers for the families in her community who will need it this year.
She says she does this for the love of her people, and simply just, “to help.”