Halloween is just around the corner, and the Hope Club, partnering with the American Cancer Society, is planning an event filled with spooks, candy and just all-around fun during its annual AutumnFest.
“We’re giving Capital District Families some fun and a chance to learn about the program and special events for families,’ said Alana Streifert of the Latham-based Hope Club. “It isn’t a fundraiser. Everything is donated. People’s time, their talent services and the supplies, it is all donated. The entire clubhouse is decorated from head to toe.”
The event was originally called Noogie Fest, said Streifert’s father Alan Sagiacomo. It started when the club was still called the Gilda’s Club, founded by original Saturday Night Live cast member Gilda Radnor, who succumbed to complications of ovarian cancer in 1988. The club began in her honor to support children and families dealing with cancer.
The American Cancer Society took over the club last year and has since started calling the annual event AutumnFest.
The event will feature several different activities for the children to enjoy such as karaoke, carnival games, henna tattoos, face painting, a haunted house and even a bouncy bounce. Streifert said there will also be a magician and a balloon artist on hand and even some pet therapy dogs.
“There will also be a variety of different food such as snow cones, popcorn and other tasty treats,” Streifert said. “There will also be Nintendo Wii for the kids to play.”
The event is mainly provided as a way to bring fun to children and also bring information to any families and friends that have experienced a love one go through battling cancer. Streifert said that it is her fourth year running the event and that she has never seen anything like it.
“This is really an event from the heart,” she said. “This is really a great event that shows the essence of the community and what it is to be a part of a community.”
There are several college groups that donate their time and volunteer during the event. One of the groups is Albany College of Pharmacy Students Against Cancer. Brittany Fitzpatrick, a fifth-year student at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Science, said she is a huge fan of the Hope Club and loves to get involved in the event each year.
“AutumnFest is a really fun event,” she said. “They have tons of different vendors, foods, activities and pictures.”
Fitzpatrick is the survivorship chair of the group, and her role is to promote survivorship and care in the community. The group has held its own events such as a bake sale where money was raised for victims of breast cancer.
Autumnfest is something that the group looks forward to every year, Fitzpatrick said, as she said an overwhelming number of students volunteered to help out at this year’s event, not only to be there but also to decorate beforehand.
“We usually get a decent number for the event itself,” Fitzpatrick said. “The week before, we’ll take as many people that are interested. I would say maybe around 20 people volunteered to decorate.”
Streifert is excited for this year’s event and can’t wait to see the excited expressions on the faces of many of the children as they go through the haunted house and gaze at the various decorations.
“There’s great energy with the kids running around and smiling,” Streifert said. “The parents and grandparents get to see their kids so happy. It is really quite magical. There is nothing like it.”
The event will take place on Saturday, Oct. 29 and will be at the Hope Club on 1 Penny Lane in Latham. The event is free to all.