|Deerfield, NJ||September 17, 2022|
In the 1940s, schoolteacher Mary Emma Allison and her husband Clyde sought ways to help children in need throughout the world. Through their collaborative efforts, they launched Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. The inaugural event in 1950 netted $17 for the charity. During Halloween 2009 — the first All Hallows Eve after Clyde Allison’s death — $4.4 million was raised for the cause. Clyde, who served as a Presbyterian minister, is interred with Mary Emma in a small roadside churchyard in Deerfield, New Jersey. The back of their brownish tombstone is shown in the center of this image.
For a time, Clyde Allison served as the editor of a nationally circulated newsletter for Sunday school ministers and directors. At his suggestion, his wife wrote an article pitching their charitable idea, and he had it published ahead of Halloween in 1950. Mary Emma Allison’s article struck a chord with Sunday schools around the United States. The results caught the attention of a grateful UNICEF, which took over the event in 1953. In the years since, many trick-or-treaters — such as my father and his siblings in the 1960s — carried orange cardboard cartons door-t-door to collect for UNICEF. Celebrity spokespeople have often been used to help promote UNICEF’s Halloweentime endeavors. Representatives through the decades have included the likes of entertainers Danny Kaye, Elizabeth Montgomery, Sammy Davis, Jr., Maya Angelou, Selena Gomez, Heidi Klum, and Zendaya.
The Allisons’ tombstone has an inscription that commemorates the couple’s charitable legacy. Their influence continues, as Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF has outlasted its originators. Reverend Allison died in 2009, and by the time Mrs. Allison died in 2010, their brainchild had been used to raise close to $160 million to help youths around the world.
Born: September 14, 1917 in Republic of China
Spouse: Mary Emma Woodruff Allison (m. circa 1944-2009)
Died: April 11, 2009 in Lowell, Indiana
Interment: Deerfield Presbyterian Church, Deerfield, New Jersey
"It was a nice idea, but I certainly had no notion it would grow to become what it is today."
- Clyde Allison
October 2000, on the 50th anniversary of Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Bennett, Kitty. “Trick or Treat for UNICEF.” AARP Bulletin. October 29, 2010. https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/history/info-10-2010/where_are_they_now_trick_or_treat_for_unicef.html.
Collins, Huntly. “UNICEF PROGRAM TURNS 50.” Greensboro News & Record. October 30, 2000. Updated January 26, 2015. https://greensboro.com/unicef-program-turns-50/article_1f1fed6e-b04c-57a8-9b6e-023e748d71eb.html.
Fox, Margalit. “Mary Emma Allison, Who Inspired Charitable Ghouls, Dies at 93.” New York Times. October 29, 2010. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/30/us/30allison.html.
UNICEF USA. “History Timeline.” Accessed December 23, 2022. https://www.unicefusa.org/node23991/.