Kyle Penney

I consider myself a positive person, generally looking for the best in all circumstances. As such, it has always puzzled me why so many people have a morbid fascination with the darker aspects of Halloween.

The history of Halloween is a mixed bag of ancient harvest festivals, pagan celebrations interacting with the spirit world and early Christian church leaders trying to put a positive spin on fall festivals by honoring the dead. Halloween in the United States has become nearly unrecognizable from any religious observance honoring the dead. The seasonal merchandise rows in every store have been packed with candy and ghoulish gear for weeks, since the rush for back-to-school supplies ended.

Despite my personal opinion about how death and darkness are overemphasized during Halloween, death is something that inevitably impacts each of us. One of the great positive remembrances in our community was held last week at The Children’s Park of Tyler. The Day of Remembrance event was held at the park to honor children who have died and help their families with the grief process. As described on their website, “The mission of The Children’s Park is to provide ways to experience joy, even in the midst of grief. Our annual Day of Remembrance is a special time to remember and celebrate the lives of our children. One of the greatest fears is that once gone, our children will be forgotten. Coming together provides comfort and reminds us all that we are not alone in our grief.”

The Children’s Park was built with private contributions and gifted to the City of Tyler. The site of the park went through a miraculous transformation from a vine-covered creek bed to the beautifully landscaped garden we are able to enjoy today, as a result of the love and generosity of members of our community making charitable gifts to memorialize their loved ones. The Children Are A Gift Foundation continues to accept charitable contributions and is growing an endowment to maintain and enhance the park for the long term.

Giving in memory of someone special is a primary consideration for charitable giving. As a community and country we raise funds and erect grand memorials to honor sacrifices and pay tribute to lives well lived. Brookshires recently hosted another Honor Flight to escort a group of older veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the national memorials that were erected in honor of the sacrifices they made to preserve our freedoms. Other memorials are meticulously crafted and placed with honor in public spaces throughout our state, county and community to memorialize local heroes or victims of tragedies.

On a more local level, donors at our community foundation frequently make grants to local charities in memory of individuals in our community who valued the work of specific nonprofit organizations. Several of these organizations have also created endowments in memory of community leaders or volunteers.

If you can’t tell already, I’m not a big fan of Halloween, but I highly regard those who are motivated to make charitable gifts in memory of others. I hope you will give us a call at the community foundation or call one of your favorite local charities if you are interested in making a gift in memory of a loved one. Making a memorial gift to celebrate the positive memories you have of a loved one may be your next best opportunity to give well.

Guest columnist Kyle Penney is president of East Texas Communities Foundation and a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy. Philanthropy builds community and changes lives. ETCF supports philanthropy by providing simple ways for donors to achieve their charitable goals. To learn more about ETCF or to discuss your charitable giving, contact Kyle at 866-533-3823 or email questions or comments to etcf@etcf.org. More information is available at www.etcf.org.

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