Pebble Tossers Board of Directors welcomes Kris Manning and Dara Redler

Pebble Tossers Board of Directors welcomes Kris Manning and Dara Redler
The 2022 board is focused on expanding offerings, diversifying its community base and helping youth develop leadership skills.

(Atlanta, GA, February 3, 2022)…Pebble Tossers, Atlanta’s leading youth development nonprofit organization, is pleased to welcome two new board members, Kris Manning, Retired Teacher and Orton Gillingham Tutor, and Dara Redler, Chief Legal Officer, H&R Block.

“Our board is committed to expanding Pebble Tossers’ reach and influence throughout the community,” said Kelly Weber, Pebble Tossers Board President. “The experience and knowledge Kris and Dara bring to the board and our team will help us meet our goals.”

Along with the existing members, the new board members will work to guide Pebble Tossers as it engages in new projects, developments, and partnerships that serve the mission of empowering and equipping youth to lead through service.

Kris Manning, Retired Teacher, Orton Gillingham Tutor

After teaching 13 years in public school, Kris became a certified Orton Gillingham tutor. She currently works with students who struggle with reading, writing and comprehension. Kris and her wife, Melinda, have been married for 28 years and have a 12-year-old son.“I am humbled and excited to join the Board of Pebble Tossers, said Kris. “After experiencing the events of the past couple of years, I am yearning to find deeper connections and to push myself in new ways. I hope to gain more compassion and understanding by making an impact in the lives of others.”Kris’s most memorable service memories are from organizing two different school fundraisers. They provided her with immense satisfaction as they were both were wildly successful, fun, and positively rallied the local community. 


Dara Redler, Chief Legal Officer, H&R Block

Recently named Chief Legal Officer for H&R Block, Dara holds a Juris Doctor from Duke University School of Law and two bachelor’s degrees from The University of Pennsylvania, one in Marketing from the Wharton School, and one in global studies from the College of Arts & Sciences. Dara and her husband, Dan, have three sons.“I am excited to join Pebble Tossers’ Board of Directors and help continue building on the ripples of doing good for the community,” said Dara.Dara’s most memorable service opportunity comes from annually serving with her family to lead a clean-up of the Chattahoochee River during the International Coastal Cleanup through the Ocean Conservancy. She loved working together as a family to pull out tons of trash and was inspired by how much of an impact could be had in just one day.


2022 Board of Directors, Pebble Tossers

Kelly Weber, Board President OneDigital
Brandy Brock, Board Vice President Google Cloud Business Solutions
Brian Sengson, Board Treasurer Bennett Thrasher
Neal Chatigny, Board Secretary WebMD
Matt Carr Amazon Web Services
Aaron Dixon Alston & Bird
Heather Housley Bank of America-Merrill Lynch
Kris Manning Retired Teacher/Orton Gillingham Tutor
Elizabeth Rasberry ABB
Dana Redler H&R Block
Asher Royal Davita Kidney Care
Rebecca Sandberg, Past President Management Consultant

About Pebble Tossers
Pebble Tossers is the premier local youth service organization focused on providing families with a comprehensive path to youth development through service to others, from preschool to graduation. Customized programming empowers youth to lead by providing them with resources and age-appropriate service opportunities. With Pebble Tossers, volunteers sign up, show up, and serve to create a ripple of giving in their community.

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“A Day On, Not A Day Off”

What exactly is “a day on, not a day off?” Unlike other national holidays, Martin Luther King Day was established to honor Dr. King and his service and commitment to the improvement of our nation.

Naturally, here at Pebble Tossers we embrace this commitment and like to think that every day is a potential day for service and to support our community. It’s a key aspect of our teen leadership program initiative: serve. lead. succeed.

While currently in our second year of our Teen Leadership Program, our first-year alums shared with us what they learned about leadership from the program’s speakers and service projects.

“A leader is someone who makes a change by being different. They have to be confident enough to stand out and stand up.” – Nupur D.

“In the past, I always thought of leaders as being more dictatorial which is why I often shied away from that role. Being a part of the TLP showed me that I can be a leader while still listening to others and uplifting the voices of my teammates.” – Ainsley M.

A key element of leadership is to build up those that work with you to achieve your goals. Our mission at Pebble Tossers is to empower and equip youth to lead through service and we believe it is making a difference.

Thank you for serving on this national holiday in honor of Dr. King and his mission and throughout the year to support and build our community.

Our cause area for the month is Citizenship + Social Justice. To learn more about it and service opportunities surrounding its focus, please click here.

Here are a few resources on the MLK Jr. Holiday:

The King Center History of Martin Luther King Jr. Day King Institute TIME Magazine: Man of the Year

A look at the origins of GivingTuesday

The countdown to the world’s most significant day of generosity is upon us as GivingTuesday falls on Tuesday, November 30th this year. If you’re not familiar with the origins of GivingTuesday, here’s a breakdown. It is, at its core, a global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity. Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. 1

On GivingTuesday, nonprofits receive a tremendous amount of attention which translates into record fundraising events. When we review 2018 – 2020, the day resulted in tremendous results and increases. In 2018, $400 million was raised in total for Giving Tuesday, a new record. Then, in 2019, 511 million was raised which when compared to the previous year, was a 28% increase. In the year 2020, an astonishing $2.47 billion was donated to U.S nonprofit organizations by a reported 34.8 million people on Giving Tuesday.2 The National Today data science team surveyed 1,000 people about their Giving Tuesday habits and found that 25% of Americans plan on participating in Giving Tuesday.

Your donations can make all the difference for nonprofits, especially smaller ones. For instance, when you donate to Pebble Tossers, it is used to support our mission of empowering and equipping youth to serve through leadership. The first step in that initiative is to create meaningful, safe, service projects for members of all ages. In doing so, Pebble Tossers provides all the materials and supplies needed for projects, including snacks and refreshments for our volunteers and those we serve. Additionally, Pebble Tossers provides trained staff resources, and timely and relevant information and logistics for each project so volunteers know what to expect before they arrive (preparing for the service project, parking instructions, clothing attire, and more).

Beyond the day-of-volunteer experience, Pebble Tossers offers members a personalized dashboard to track volunteer hours and favorite service projects and provides printed transcripts of volunteer service. Pebble Tossers also offers youth leadership and character development workshops, as well as “Toolbox Resources” for youth and families, including “Table Talk” and “How-To” sheets for families to discuss and process together issues such as serving those experiencing homelessness or working with the elderly.

Pebble Tossers empowers our youth through service thus leaving them with a sense of community awareness and learned responsibility that they can make the world a better place. We also provide hands-on opportunities for learning that build confidence, teach collaborative efforts, and develop the initiative. Giving youth opportunities to lead at an early age provides safe opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them.

To donate on this GivingTuesday, please click here.

1 Giving Tuesday
2 National Today

November Cause Area: How to Help Curb Hunger in Our Community

Did you know that Georgia has the 10th highest food insecurity rate in the county and that 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger?1 For most of us, hunger can be solved by a trip to the kitchen. Mealtimes often revolve around planned ingredients, thoughtfully purchased during weekly grocery runs, or include impromptu restaurant visits. But for many Atlantans, food is an expense that has to take a backseat to more pressing needs. For these individuals and families, there isn’t regular access to adequate or affordable food—it’s a chronic problem known as food insecurity.2

“A household is food insecure when they’re unsure about where their next meal is coming from,” said Jon West, VP of Programs at the Atlanta Community Food Bank. “This may be due to a lack of resources—money, a place to buy food or transportation to get there.”3

Food insecurity does not just affect children and families in the city but it also affects individuals living in rural areas. People who live in rural Georgia face hunger at higher rates, in part because of the unique challenges living remotely presents. These challenges include an increased likelihood of food deserts with the nearest food pantry or food bank potentially hours away, job opportunities that are more concentrated in low-wage industries, and higher rates of unemployment and underemployment.4

Our partners at HOPE Atlanta, the Atlanta Mission, Open Hand Atlanta, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank are working hard to thwart those statistics and we’re glad we can help by hosting a variety of service projects for our members including food drives, serving as delivery drivers, helping pack and sort food donations, making sandwiches, preparing a meal for a youth shelter, and more. Our current service calendar has 10 projects for this cause area with nearly 100 project dates and times available to members.

Data has shown that in the state of Georgia more than a million children in Georgia do not have consistent access to enough nutritious food. This can have long-term effects on their health and future. Kids who are food insecure are more likely to be held back a grade in elementary school, more than likely to be sick and hospitalized and more likely to have growth and developmental issues.5

Here are a few highlighted upcoming projects for Pebble Tossers members:

Thanksgiving Meal Boxes
InCommunity needs volunteers on Wednesday, November 17th to sort and fill Thanksgiving Meal Boxes for its 43 group homes. The items donated at our food drive on November 6th will be used to fill these boxes. InCommunity provides opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities to participate in meaningful activities within their communities. All volunteers must be at least 8 years old.

S’mores with SafeHouse Outreach
This will be our 9th year providing the S’mores for the Chili Outreach. Pebble Tossers volunteers will make and serve the S’mores and help with the entire event. All supplies are provided and we will be serving and visiting with the community from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Saturday, November 27th. This is a great way to extend your Thanksgiving and is a wonderful family project.

Thanksgiving Love Feeds on November 19th
Love Beyond Walls focuses on raising awareness of the realities and needs of those experiencing lack and vulnerability and using that vehicle as a way of mobilizing people to take part in those stories. Love Beyond Walls is preparing for the Thanksgiving Love Feeds – they will be collecting the following items: turkeys, boxes of cornbread, boxes of mac & cheese, boxes of stuffing, boxes of desserts, and drinks. If you would like to donate any of the items listed below, please click here to sign up with Love Beyond Walls for a time to drop them off at their office

1 HOPE Atlanta
2 Southface
3 Southface
4 Georgia Food Bank Association
5 Georgia Food Bank Association

Benefits of Serving Goes Full Circle

It’s more than just hours: many serve for the smiles. Service equates to smiles! No matter the situation, when you walk into a room, someone smiling at you instantly helps you to feel at ease. That same smile offered to those whom we serve can make their day! When Pebble Tossers volunteered at My Sister’s House, two of the teens shared their experience in serving. They learned that you can do something as small as saying thank you and it can make someone’s day. Being a friendly face makes those in need feel at ease and, in turn, makes volunteers happy seeing them happy. Smiles come from knowing your actions and words helped someone. These smiles start a ripple of smiles and culminate in our tagline:- #startingarippleofgiving

Community service is commonly defined as voluntary work intended to help people in a particular area. However, anyone who participates in community service understands that the benefits are not only one-sided. Serving the community is a mutually beneficial process; those served receive much-needed supplies and resources while those serving develop social and emotional skills that last a lifetime. Developing relationships with those in need teaches compassion, empathy, and brings communities closer. 

Communities enjoy benefits far beyond the financial aspects when youth contribute to service projects. Youth who volunteer just one hour or more a week are 50%  less likely to abuse alcohol, cigarettes, become pregnant, or engage in other destructive behavior. Youth who volunteer are more likely to do well in school, graduate, and vote ( Young people involved in community service are more likely to have a strong work ethic as an adult. When youth volunteer, adults tend to volunteer also, resulting in a lifelong volunteer community ( The community also gains a generation of young people who care about where they live and are willing to make a commitment to improvement. Teens say the benefits received from volunteering are: 

  • learning to respect others;
  • learning to be helpful and kind;
  • learning to understand people who are different;
  • developing leadership skills;
  • becoming more patient;
  • better understanding of citizenship. ( 

Overall, youth volunteerism in their communities is a tremendous win-win situation for the young volunteers, the organizations, and the communities they serve. The benefits are reaped now and in the future. 

More specifically, there are numerous volunteer opportunities that prove just how beneficial these interactions can be. Youth who work with the elderly develop a deeper sense of empathy for a generation they would otherwise be wholly separated from. It is mutually beneficial as the elder feels connected to society and the teen learns more about the past along with nuggets of wisdom. Volunteers learn to respect their elders, and just walking through the door and being present brightens their day immensely. There is so much to be learned whether they are a family member or not; family history, historical world events, life lessons, generational culture, and much more. The transfer of knowledge between these generations provides new perspectives and creates lasting relationships.

Those who volunteer within the education/literacy area are also able to develop an increased sense of empathy. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes and begin to understand the diversity of childhoods present in their community first-hand. They develop gratitude for the opportunities they had growing up and connect with members of the community they may otherwise have had no communication with. Volunteering with animals is one of the most enjoyable forms of service. Kids love interacting with animals and animals thrive off of their high energy levels. It empowers and inspires individuals to influence their community in a positive way. The experience helps volunteers, especially young individuals, develop empathy and patience. Helping animals in turn gives back to the community as they are able to become stress relief and service animals to interact with individuals in need. The animals also become better socialized and are more likely to be adopted. 

Overall, it is essential to remember that volunteer work benefits both those serving and those being served. Keeping this in mind leaves both groups feeling respected and supported. The skills and developmental assets gained by people who volunteer translates to future benefits for them personally, professionally, and for society. Eighty-one percent of Americans who have volunteer experiences when they are young give to charitable organizations as adults ( Pebble Tossers is honored to play a part in such a special relationship that brings so much joy to communities experiencing hard times. As members of the Pebble Tossers family, we thank you for serving alongside us and inspiring those around you to get involved. It only takes one individual with a smile to inspire a ripple of giving. 

Memorial Day: How to get involved to support our troops and veterans

The members of our military serve 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. They tirelessly defend the interests and security of our nation. Many individuals put their lives on the line to uphold the values of our nation. Once they return home, their fight is not always over; many veterans continue to face battles and wounds that come with such a great responsibility of service. We at Pebble Tossers work with a variety of organizations to support active and retired members of our military. From sending cards and care packages to supporting active military members, veterans, and their families in day-to-day activities, these efforts can have a significant ripple effect in their support and transition home.

Every May Pebble Tossers celebrates National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM). It is a declaration that encourages citizens all around the U.S. to observe the month as a symbol of unity. NMAM honors the current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those who have died in the pursuit of freedom.

Pebble Tossers not only supports this declaration, but also understands that action and awareness go hand in hand. This month contains a variety of wonderful opportunities for you and your family to serve together and benefit the military members of our community in need. So, how can you honor our Troops and Veterans during this Memorial Day weekend? Partake to demonstrate your support:

check out these ways to pay tribute to our veterans on Memorial Day weekend:

Memorial Day Tribute at Brook Run Park Veterans Memorial
Cauble Park at Patriots Point
City of Woodstock
Salute to the Troops in Stone Mountain Park
Memorial Day Parade in Dacula

visit these virtual avenues of support:

National Memorial Day Concert on PBS
Take a Virtual Tour of a War Memorial
Virtual Memorial Day Tribute Hosted by Alpharetta and the Rotary Club
Roswell Remembers
Fly a Flag at Home: One of the simplest ways of celebrating Memorial Day at home is to place an American flag outside your home. Take note: Memorial Day has its own flag etiquette. The American flag should be flown at half-mast from sunrise until noon, then raised to full mast for the rest of the holiday.

There are also a number of ways to get involved outside of Memorial Day weekend. Please reference our service calendar and cause area page for a number of service projects such as Operation Gratitude, Veterans Empowerment Organization (VEO), and Atlanta VA Medical Center (VAMC). These organizations serve current and former members of the military in a variety of ways and need many volunteers to assist with their efforts. Pebble Tossers members can click here to register.

We hope that you decide to join Pebble Tossers in honoring our military not only in the month of May, but year-round. Serving those who serve our country represents the core values of the Pebble Tossers community.

Pebble Tossers stands with the Asian and Asian American, Pacific Islander community

Pebble Tossers stands with our Asian and Asian American, Pacific Islander family members, friends, partners, volunteers, and members. We despise the violence and racism directed at them and are especially horrified by the murders of the Asian-American women on March 16th in our community.

The anti-Asian hate crimes, harassment, and discrimination that have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic are disturbing, but they are not new. The tragic loss of these lives should remind us that we, as Americans, have a long way to go towards true equality, inclusion, and justice.

No child, youth, or family can thrive or should live with the threat of violence. In honor of the lives lost to racist violence, Pebble Tossers recommits to the important work of developing youth who embrace a sense of civic responsibility to our community, and we strive to provide opportunities where this sense of responsibility leads to a feeling of inclusion and belonging.

When youth and teens volunteer at Pebble Tossers projects, they introduce themselves and meet those they serve with as well as those they serve. They work alongside people from a variety of cultures, races, genders, and ideologies, yet they all work towards a common goal of helping our community thrive. We strive to cultivate a welcoming environment at our projects, which leads to an inherent sense of belonging and desire to serve with us again.

We, at Pebble Tossers, will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. As an organization, we will provide intercultural assessments for our staff, board members, and advisory council in order to build and strengthen intercultural competency. We will continue to work with a wide variety of nonprofit organizations that serve the most marginalized of our brothers and sisters. We will continue to offer high-impact projects serving diverse populations. We will continue to develop educational curriculum based on social-emotional learning and positive psychology while incorporating leadership and social justice initiatives.

We hope you stand with us against this violence and work with us to equip and empower youth to lead through service. This summer, Pebble Tossers will host “Toss Up Dinners”, where we gather families together virtually (and hopefully in-person) for civic-minded conversations about relevant topics such as social justice, racial equality, gender equality, and our 12 service cause areas. If you are interested in serving on a planning committee or hosting a dinner, please contact us at

Jennifer Guynn
Founder + Executive Director, Pebble Tossers
March 18, 2021

Pebble Tossers is a proud recipient of the See Beautiful grant

Pebble Tossers is a proud recipient of the See Beautiful grant

The See Beautiful grant was created to fund nonprofits visions of creating sustainable beauty in our world

Atlanta, GA – Pebble Tossers, Atlanta’s leading youth service organization, is excited to announce that it has been selected as a recipient of the See Beautiful Grant. The See Beautiful Grant is awarded quarterly to non-profits for creating sustainable beauty in our communities. Pebble Tossers was announced as a grant recipient after a thorough and competitive application process.

Pebble Tossers partners with 65 area nonprofits; linking volunteers to service projects and organizing its own projects covering 12 major cause areas. Its mission is to empower and equip youth to lead through service. See Beautiful has awarded more than  $200,000 through its grant program and strategic giving initiatives. The See Beautiful grant will assist Pebble Tossers in its implementation of a new, immersive service experience. The grant will fund  educational components at all of the Pebble Tossers service projects to reinforce social emotional learning skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

“Pebble Tossers is honored by the recent grant from See Beautiful. Their confidence in our youth volunteers’ ability to bring beauty through service is humbling and we plan on continuing to make an impact which will affect generations to come,” says Jennifer Guynn, Founding Executive Director.

Pebble Tossers encourages and empowers youth to see the beauty in themselves as well as the potential and power they have to make this world a better place. We are teaching this generation to be empathetic and ethical global citizens who will “start a ripple of giving”, fueled by kindness, inclusivity, justice and compassion.

About Pebble Tossers

Pebble Tossers is the premier local youth service organization focused on providing families with a comprehensive path to youth development through service to others, from preschool to graduation, or “nap to cap.” Our easy-to-use volunteer portal allows families to find and sign up for volunteer projects that interest them. With Pebble Tossers, volunteers can simply sign up, show up, and serve to create a ripple of giving in our community.

About See Beautiful

See Beautiful™  is a philanthropic company providing inspiring, ethically-sourced products that create more beautiful in the process. With every purchase, your purchase helps fund carefully vetted, sustainable projects of non-profits. 

See beautiful in yourself. See beautiful in others. Create more beautiful in the world.



The Emotionally Intelligent Leader – Teen Leadership Program: A mid-year review by Ben Deignan


As we reach the end of an unquestionably difficult year, it’s a positive thing to be able to say that the first Teen Leadership cohort is reaching the program’s midpoint. While no one could’ve predicted that 2020 might not be the ideal year to launch a brand-new program, perhaps the timing is actually somewhat serendipitous for a program such as this one to come into existence.

As we’ve witnessed, factors invisible to the naked eye can bring life to a screeching halt on the local and global scale.

In these moments, we depend on our appointed leaders to make swift and responsible decisions that will certainly affect us, our loved ones, and those within our communities. We also look to the people we see as leaders in our personal lives to guide us through times of uncertainty as well.

The 32 teens that makeup Pebble Tossers’ inaugural Teen Leadership Program are cultivating emotional intelligence at a time in history where the negative impacts of leadership, in the absence of emotional intelligence, are felt almost immediately and prove more costly to society than life as usual.

Now, more than ever, and in real-time, we can witness the fallout that results from global leaders who lack the self-awareness to question their own motives, the social awareness to practice human decency, the self-management skills to inspire discipline, and the relationship skills to establish and maintain trust.

These are the tenets of social-emotional learning (SEL) and the foundation upon which the Teen Leadership Program is built. These concepts fuel the TLP mission to Serve, Lead, Succeed.

Now, as we stand at the halfway mark and can see where we’re headed, it’s good to reflect on where we’ve been…

Sunday, August 23rd, the program officially launched. Woodruff Arts Center Director of Recruitment & Employee Engagement and motivational speaker Alex Desiderio kicked things off with a Volunteer 101 presentation.

“It’s about establishing a personal presence.” -Alex Desiderio
On leadership and service project planning

For our second meeting we had the great honor of welcoming Licensed Therapist and University of Southern Mississippi associate professor, Dr. Leslie Anderson. Dr. Anderson put the students in the frame of mind where they were encouraged to interrogate their true motivations behind their acts of service.

“Service is more than “helping the needy” or attempting to capture an Instagramable selfie. It’s about being able to see yourself in the eyes of those you seek to serve.” -Dr. Leslie Anderson
On motivations behind volunteering for community service projects

We were then joined by retired NFL player (New England Patriots: UGA Football), author and founder of Share the Magic Foundation, Ind. Malcolm Mitchell, for our October meeting. Mitchell shared with us the degree to which reading has impacted his life and how education has informed the leader he’s become now, off the field, as an author and entrepreneur.

“Reading unlocks potential. It’s as simple as that. I promise you that if you read every single day, you will grow; it’s impossible not to.” -Malcolm Mitchell
On the powerful benefits of reading

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we welcomed Bank of America Community Relations Manager and service project veteran Cherie Wilson. Growing up, while other kids were playing sports, Cherie volunteered her time and effort to help her community. Her passion for community service lasted through college, her professional life, and even to this day. Cherie’s presentation may have been the most relevant to the Pebble Tossers’ cause as a whole and comes at a perfect time as the teens enter the program’s service project phase.

“You have to learn how to tell your story. If you want to inspire others to get behind your cause, sell them on the narrative that inspired you to get behind this cause.” -Cherie Wilson
On using your personal “secret weapon” and “super powers” as a guide for service and career paths.

The caliber of speakers willing to share their wisdom with us is certainly felt within the program, even in the virtual format.

“I love all of the different speakers. I feel like I’ve learned so much already, and we haven’t even been together in person. It’s really amazing.”
-Gracie Rosenberg

“The program and the speakers have definitely challenged my mind to think about things that I wouldn’t normally think about.”
-Ainsley McCaa

Now that the teens have put their heads together and decided on three service projects, they’re in the process of dividing themselves into groups based on where they think their interests and talents will be the most useful. This is really the reason many of them joined the program in the first place.

“I know for me I just wanted to get to know new people and get to find new service opportunities, and just grow my leadership skills as a whole, and this seemed like a really great way to do it.”
-Gracie Rosenberg

“I really want to find like-minded people who want to address issues within the community and improve my leadership skills.”
-Alex Farquharson

Ultimately, this group of young adults have an altruistic fire that burns within them. No one is forcing them to be in a leadership program; they all found their way here by their own means. What they’re learning through the curriculum, they already possess; but the time they spend together working on their own service projects will further uncover and strengthen these leadership skills.

“This program is a wonderful training ground for young, compassionate, and brilliant leaders. As an advisor, I am thrilled to see the creativity and drive in the young hearts & minds. Our current project is focused on planting trees in the memory of those who passed away due to COVID. Besides the raw power of the central theme, the team came up with great ideas – like a type of flora specific to the local region with flower colors symbolizing hope.  

Outcome driven meetings wonderfully curated guest speakers and reflection writing – Jen & Ben have made this program a powerful part of kids’ leadership toolkit.  Thank you, Pebble Tossers!”

-Anand Sathiyamurthy, Teen Leadership Program advisor

Happy COVID Halloween

Your guide to Halloween, trick-or-treating and COVID-19

Good news: It’s OK to decorate your COVID-19 mask

By Page Leggett

As chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer, Dr. David Priest is Novant Health’s top expert on COVID-19. He has helped lead COVID-19 treatment and prevention efforts throughout the Novant Health system. He gets nonstop, complex questions around the clock on the ongoing pandemic. He spoke to Page Leggett to answer the one question that a nation of children and parents are asking …

Q: Is it safe to trick or treat this year?

A: “I think some variation on Halloween celebrations, or trick or treating, can be created, as long as people adhere to the rules we all know: Avoid having large groups of people congregating together. Avoid indoor settings for parties. Make sure you’re masking. And it’s always safer to be outside.”

Q: Good! No one wants to have to tell kids Halloween is canceled. What about from an adult perspective? Is it safe to give out candy with a cluster of kids at your door?

A: “That’s something I’d avoid. Getting creative about how you give out candy is the best way to approach it. Consider individual plastic bags with a set amount of candy and maybe have candy set out on a table where people walk by and pick them up as they go. Or find a way to give it out without having people congregating and yelling “trick or treat” on your doorstep. Having a better way to dispense candy is preferable to having a group of kids on your doorstep.”

Q: Should children not go trick or treating with their friends? Should they go with just one adult?

A:“I think they can go with a small group of friends, although they all should wear masks. You’ve got to keep the group smaller – three or four friends outside wearing masks. And while walking down the street, they should try to stay socially distant. I think that’s a reasonably safe approach. Just avoid big groups and unmasked folks.”

Q:A lot of Halloween costumes have masks, but they would generally have an opening. I’m assuming that is not sufficient protection.

A: “That’s true. Kids should use masks that inhibit the spread of COVID. There are some Halloween costumes that would be more authentic with a mask, right? Stick to the kind of mask that helps prevent the spread of COVID rather than, say, a Darth Vader mask.”

Q: So, dressing as a nurse or doctor would be a good call this Halloween? Is it safe to decorate those cloth masks or “doctor up” a surgical mask with Sharpies, glue and glitter?

A: “Yes, I think that’s a way to be creative and still wear the appropriate mask. Remember: Bandanas and the gaiters you pull up your neck to cover the lower half of your face are not as effective as the surgical-style or other cotton masks.”
Is using a Sharpie on your mask OK? Is there any chance kids could be poisoning themselves with the decorations?
“Minimal risk – nothing you need to worry about.”

Q: You mentioned not having kids come up to your door but instead putting something out in the yard where they can grab candy. If somebody chooses not to do that, do they need to be disinfecting the doorbell after every ring?

A: “I don’t think so. As long as you’re washing your own hands, there’s little need to be wiping down door handles and doorbells. I don’t want to discourage people from cleaning things, but I would say hand hygiene is more important than wiping down surfaces.”

Q: Should kids wear gloves as part of their costume?

A: “Not necessarily. Hand hygiene is better than glove wearing as a preventive strategy. Now if you’re Batman, you’ve got to have gloves, right? Don’t avoid gloves – but don’t go overboard trying to make them part of the costume.”

Q: Do parents don’t need to wipe down individual pieces of candy?

A: “I don’t think so. Just wash your hands.”

Q: How would you recommend talking to kids who balk about wearing a mask with their costume?

A: “Remind kids about how masks keep them safe. Promote the idea that it’s a cool part of the costume. If a child wants to dress as a ninja, the mask fits in perfectly as part of the costume. Let this be the year you find a costume that incorporates the right kind of mask. With little, little kids, it’s tough. Try as best you can to keep the mask on them. If they don’t, then stay outside and stay socially distanced as best you can.”

Q: What about corn mazes, pumpkin patches and other common fall activities that take place outdoors?

A: “I’m personally OK with that. You need to avoid congregating at the entrance to the corn maze or the ticket booth or anywhere else. And I would make sure those places have some parameters to keep the lines spread out and to help people maintain a safe distance.
I would be concerned about haunted houses if they’re enclosed. Avoid them unless you can find one that offers a drive-thru option or that strictly limits the number of people who can come in at one time.”

Q: Should neighbors come together and put out sanitation stations for trick-or-treaters?

A: “I don’t think, as long as people are doing their own hand hygiene and masking and being socially distant, that a station like that is necessary.”