They say that a person’s choice of Halloween costume reflects a lot about who they are on the inside — but while Abby Shaw doesn’t appear at first glance to be sporting an angel’s wings or a superhero’s cape, the 13 year old Rumson resident has figuratively suited up each of the past five Halloween seasons, on a do-good mission of her own devising.
Since the fall of 2011, during her days as a fourth grader at Forrestdale School, Abby has operated her own charitable enterprise, through which she collects donated Halloween costumes and distributes them to area kids in need.
Five years on, Abby’s Costumes for Kids Collection may not rank among the world’s most internationally recognizable nonprofit entities — but the smiles that have resulted from one kid’s hard work and positive energy have cured many cases of the trick-or-treat blues, and shown how a deceptively simple idea can capture a community’s imagination.
As Abby’s mom Jen Shaw tells it, her then 9 year old daughter was inspired by a visit to Forrestdale by NBA player Randy Foye, who spoke to the fourth graders of his Randy Foye Foundation, and how it benefits his community.
“That sparked something inside of Abby to start her own charity,” Jen says. “We had just been discussing how expensive Halloween costumes were, and how fortunate she and her three older brothers were to get new ones each year. She decided that she would collect new and gently used Halloween costumes and accessories, and donate them to children in need.”
As her proud parent explains, Abby starts in to assembling each year’s collection shortly after school starts in fall; putting out the word for local families to drop off gently used costumes at designated collection spots, then collecting, cleaning, sorting and boxing all of the donated materials — a “lot of work in a short period of time,” and “a family labor of love” that often enlists the help of her brothers.
From there, Abby selects several local schools and nonprofits as the recipients of her collected costumes, delivering her boxed items to be distributed in turn to area kids who can’t afford a new Hallo-outfit from the store shelves or racks.
Abby’s annual adventure as a Halloween angel has captured the interest of more than just neighborhood trick-or-treaters. Each year, Cottontails Children’s Consignment of Tinton Falls donates all of their Halloween gear to Costumes for Kids, to be stored and distributed the following year — and in the Sandy-afflicted season of 2012, Abby was honored at halftime during the Rutgers Homecoming game, and presented with the Johnson & Johnson Knight in Shining Armor Award.
“Abby is full of life and has a huge heart,” says Jen Shaw of her daughter who performs with the school band and choir; acts in school musicals and swims year-round at Red Bank’s Community YMCA. “Costumes for Kids just helps put a smile on a child’s face, and lets a parent who may be struggling to take a little breath.”
For Halloween 2015, Abby’s Costumes for Kids will be delivering donated costumes to three local distribution sites: Red Bank Primary School on River Street, Lunch Break on Drs. James Parker Boulevard, and Manna House in Cliffwood Beach. This year’s collection sites and dates are as follows:
Forrestdale School, Forrest Avenue in Rumson (through October 9)
Deane Porter School, Black Point Road in Rumson (through October 9)
Rumson Borough Hall, 80 East River Road (through October 10)
Morgan Stanley at 20 Linden Place in Red Bank, and other offices in Monmouth County (through October 16)
Clementine Cycling Studio, 813 River Road in Fair Haven (through October 16)
Retro Fitness, 185 Route 36 in West Long Branch (through October 16)
In addition, OAR Fitness in Sea Bright will be hosting a Costume Bootcamp Benefit on October 19 at 6 pm to benefit Costumes for Kids. The cost of admission is donation of a new or gently used costume.
“When (Abby) gets to high school next year, she would like to expand and grow the collection and the reach to those in need,” adds Jen Shaw. “She would like to have a weekend at a local community center or gym, where those who need can come and browse and select their costumes.”
Abby Shaw accepts donations all year long. Anyone who would like to establish a collection site, or knows of anyone in need of donated costumes, is invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org.