It’s Spooktacular: Coats for Kids kickoff Oct. 29

Published 12:56 pm Friday, October 22, 2021

By Mary Richardson

A trinity of warm coats, family fun, and local beer will take place on the Friday night before Halloween at the 5th annual Spooktacular, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles.

Spooktacular kicks off the Kiwanis Club’s annual Coats for Kids, which the club has organized for the past 32 years. It will take place at Crying Eagle, 1165 E. McNeese St., from 5-9 p.m. on Oct. 29.

The event is free. People coming to Spooktacular are asked to bring a coat – any size, any weight – and they will receive a free beer glass, a token to fill that glass with a beverage, and a raffle ticket. People in Halloween costumes are especially welcome.

Spooktacular is a family event. Special activities have been planned for kids from 5-6 p.m. Then the band The Vibes will strike up on the outdoor stage, playing a rock-n-roll set instead of its usual reggae playlist. Games will include the surprisingly challenging fireman’s coat relay. Food will be available for purchase.

The purpose behind Spooktacular is to provide coats to people who need them. The coats collected at the event will augment the coat drive taking place throughout the area. On Oct. 25, boxes labeled “Coats for Kids” will be distributed at 33 businesses, libraries and schools throughout the community. The boxes will remain in place until Nov. 19.

All of the coats will be professionally cleaned. AAA Cleaners donated this service in past years, but damages from Hurricane Laura
prevented them from participating this year. Runte Lake Cleaners has stepped in to take over. The newly cleaned coats will be distributed to 10 local agencies that serve both children and adults – Potters House, ETC Harbour House, The Lord’s Place, Boys Village, Oasis Women’s Shelter, Abraham’s Tent, Care Help of Sulphur, DeWanna’s Closet, CPSB McKinney-Vento for Homeless Children, and CARC.

Coats for Kids has grown over the years, and a record was set in 2019 when 1,900 coats were collected. The event was cancelled in 2020 because of multiple natural disasters and Covid. Kiwanis members who are chairing the coat drive, Steve Ek and Jim Meyer, are hoping to reach 2019 levels. “But we will be delighted if we just get near those numbers,” Meyer said. “So many people are still not back in their homes, and can’t even get to the coats they would normally donate. The need is still there, maybe greater than ever, so we are hoping for the best.”

Through sponsorships and a silent auction, money is raised at Spooktacular for the sawme organizations that receive the coats. In 2019, a total of $15,000 was raised for these charities. All donations are tax-deductible, and credit card donations can be made at donate.kiwanislakecharles.org.

Events such as Spooktacular and Coats for Kids rely on partnerships and volunteers, stressed LaDonna McKnight, Kiwanis member spearheading Spooktacular this year. “We are grateful for Sam Ayaz, owner of Runte Cleaners, and all the people at Crying Eagle for donating their facility and their beer, especially Eric, Fran, and Larry Avery and Amber Jay, who helped us find our band, The Vibes,” she said.

Volunteers come from McNeese’s chapter of CKI (Circle K International) and high school Key Clubs.  CKI is an international collegiate service organization associated with Kiwanis International, and Key Clubs are the high school branch of the Kiwanis International family. “CKI and the Key Clubs promote service, leadership, and fellowship – and they certainly do all of that when they help us at Spooktacular,” McKnight said. “We are delighted have high school and college students working with us.”

The motto of the Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles is to “improve the world, one child and one community at a time.” “One coat from one person fits right into that,” McKnight said, “plus it will be fun!”