September 30, 2019

"Really, it’s transformative for these kids who have everyday issues to overcome ..."

A New Orleans nonprofit shares Halloween haunts with every child.

Halloween means trick-or-treating, candy, and dressing up to children across the nation. The ‘Ween Dream team recognizes the importance of this one night of make believe to children in need.

In 2014, the New Orleans Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) received more donated Halloween costumes than they needed for the number of children it’s program. Kelsey Meeks, a volunteer, teamed up with Alli Womac to turn the 60 excess donations she was storing in her living room into the first nationwide Halloween costume donation nonprofit.

Co-founder Alli Womac attends an event to spread the word about Ween Dream.

“A lot of people associate Halloween with just wearing a costume because kids go trick-or-treating,” Alli says. “Really, it’s transformative for these kids who have everyday issues to overcome for them to have an imagination and for them to be able to just be a kid.”

Grassroots Spooks

‘Ween Dream spread from its inception through social media and word of mouth. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Kelsey and the board now house over 10,000 donated costumes in a warehouse they call “Costume Headquarters.”

Headquarters accepts costume donations year-round. When costumes arrive, volunteers check that each received is complete with all necessary parts. Complete costumes have no rips, tears, or stains, and they include any necessary masks, capes, or other accessories.

In August, the application opens for individual children and groups to apply for costume donations. Applicants provide clothing size, height, weight, and their top two costume preferences. In September until mid-October, volunteers match each applicant with a complete costume. All costumes are sent out by mid-October.

“As long as you can demonstrate a need of some sort, we will do our best to get you a costume,” Alli says.

Last year, the nonprofit provided costumes to 3,500 kids across the nation. Donated costumes came from 45 states and children received costumes in 38 different states. Local organizations and groups comprise of half of the recipients of costumes, and ‘Ween Dream encourages groups across the nation to start local movements.

"Weensters" is the nickname for the kids who receive donated costumes.

Tricks of the Team

The nonprofit works with other local organizations to provide costumes to children in need in the community. YEP, Covenant House, Ronald McDonald House, ReNEW schools, Good Shepherd School, homeless shelters, and foster care homes are only a select few of the organizations that have received donations from ‘Ween Dream since its foundation.

Shana Rubenstein, the current director of YEP Enriches program, is a group leader for ‘Ween Dream. She coordinates costume donations to the students in her programs after speaking with each of the students to match them with costumes.

"‘Ween Dream takes away barriers to let children have fun,” Shana says. “When the costumes arrive, the students always want to try them on right away.”

If you would like to donate to ‘Ween Dream, please send any complete costumes to the following address: 3001 River Rd., Jefferson. New Orleans locals also are welcome to drop off costumes at headquarters Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, 8–10 am, or schedule a drop off time by emailing [email protected]. If you are not sure what to donate, visit weendream.org.

Costume Headquarters


Thyme Hawkins is an editorial intern with Nola Family and our sister publication, Nola Boomers. She is a student at Loyola University, class of 2021.

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