Spooktacular Party is a Frightening Good Time

Whether you’re a fan of all things frightening or prefer things on the sweeter side, Halloween can be a time to take a break from your everyday routine and pretend to be someone—or something—totally new.

DarienLionsHalloween 03But too many kids sugared up on chocolate bars and skittles roaming dark streets can pose a potential safety concern on Halloween. Darien Lions Club, in Darien, Illinois, wanted families to feel safe on the scariest night of the year and decided to create a place for kids to come together and let off steam after all their trick or treating.

Every Halloween for the past four decades, the Darien Lions have put on a Halloween extravaganza at the local Sportsplex. They take over the soccer field and one of the two ice rinks and decorate them to the hilt.

“Each year more than 1,300 children and 500 ice skaters come out and enjoy a safe and fun-filled Halloween evening,” touts the Darien Lions’ website.

DarienLionsHAlloween 05If skating isn’t your thing, there’s a spooky graveyard decked out for photo ops, free ice cream, “The game lady”—who comes with armfuls of lawn games—and a magician who puts on a very popular spooky and spectacular show.

“It’s a huge hit,” says Darien Lion Shari Gillespie, who is chair of the event this year and has been working on it since July, when the prizes had to be ordered and vendors booked.

As a former event planner for nonprofits, Gillespie is more than up for the job, even though she’s a relatively new Lion. “My dad was a Lion, so I grew up with it,” she says. But until two years ago, she was helping out regularly at Lions events as a non-Lion volunteer. Eventually, a fellow Lion was able to nudge her to just join already. She wasn’t interested in getting “credit” for being a Lion, she says, but she admits that being one—formally—feels good.

DarienLionsHAlloween 02And so does seeing the grins on all the kids’ faces when they step into The Lions’ Annual Halloween Party.

“The whole point is to give kids and families a safe place to spend Halloween,” says Gillespie. Complete with shuttle buses for parking overflow, the event is free to all. The Darien Sportsplex has generously donated its facilities this year, and any additional funds are covered through the club’s established foundation.

As a large club—146 members and counting—the Darien Lions should have plenty of fundraising capacity for years to come, but they are hoping their foundation is a way to ensure that their projects can be supported even if their club changes over the years. “We want our projects to be sustained long into the future,” says current club president Mike Falco.

And that includes their famous, fantastic, and frightening Halloween Party.