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PHOTOS: Saanich retirement home welcomes students for pandemic-friendly Great Pumpkin walk

Annual Berwick House Halloween event brings joy to seniors, youngsters

From pumpkin lanterns carved by Saanich’s littlest ghouls to grandmas in feather boas, the Berwick House annual Great Pumpkin Walk in Gordon Head was still a well-attended Halloween haunt despite the pandemic.

Every year, the residents at the Berwick House Retirement Community create a spooky experience out of pumpkins carved by the Grade 5 students at Hillcrest Elementary – the facility’s “buddy school” – and hang a myriad of other haunting decorations to spook up the facility. The two-day event held ahead of Halloween helps students and seniors get into the spirit of the holiday.

This year, the event was held on Oct. 28 and 29 as a pandemic-friendly drive-thru rather than the usual event which features decorated rooms and activities for the children.

READ ALSO: Homes get spooky across Greater Victoria ahead of Halloween

“We had 135 cars come through, 57 pumpkins on display and some amazing feedback from our community,” said Melissa Braun, the active living and marketing project coordinator at Berwick House. “The residents and kids were so happy being able to connect in a COVID-safe way.”

With so many things getting cancelled this year due to the pandemic, it was important to “keep the tradition going” as the event brings joy to all involved, she explained.

“It turned out even better than we’d hoped,” Braun said. “It was so joyful and felt so normal” with all the energy, cheerful greetings and huge smiles – all from a safe distance.

READ ALSO: Kids in costume storm Saanich retirement home for annual Pumpkin walk

Residents in lawn chairs lined the driveway – decked out in costumes – and waved to the families driving by to take in the decorations, she explained, adding that it felt like a “reverse parade.”

“Berwick does an amazing job every year of welcoming our Hillcrest community,” said teacher Sarah Ball. “It was extra special this year that they found a way to still make this event happen and came up with such a creative and fantastic way to bring happiness to both young and old.”

Braun said the Grade 5 students were “so proud of their pumpkins” and many families drove through several times to take it all in. She noted that aside from the students’ families, among the attendees were the families and former neighbours of the residents.

READ ALSO: Pandemic impacts trends in Halloween looks, says costume shop owner

They were all in costume and so happy to shout greetings to their loved ones and the students, Braun said.

“Being able to see all the carved pumpkins line the driveway was magical but my son really loved seeing the residents dressed in their costumes as they wished each other a Happy Halloween,” said Tania Ross, whose child attends Hillcrest.

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