UTEP club helps underprivileged celebrate Halloween


Elenie Gonzalez

Junior biological sciences major Karina Monticone delivers Halloween candy and presents to underprivileged individuals.

Elenie Gonzalez, Staff Reporter

Halloween is the one night of the year that many people of all ages look forward to celebrating with decorations, candy and costumes flooding the town.

It’s a tradition that dates back many decades.

Trick or treating is what most children look forward to on Halloween night. Getting dressed up as their favorite character or hero and walking off into the night knocking on doors, hoping to fill their bags with pounds of candy brings joy and memories to those who take part in the tradition.

However, there are many that are not able to participate in this joyful night.

There are children who are battling illnesses that keep them from being able to walk around their neighborhoods collecting their favorite candy. Others are in a strained financial situation that makes it difficult to join their friends dressed in costumes.

What should be a worry-free night, is often a reminder of what one does not have.

For the past three years, a group of UTEP students have come together each year to bring Halloween to those who don’t have the opportunity to celebrate in the same way as others.

The Medical Professions Organization (MPO) Halloween Candy Drive has become an annual charitable tradition that delivers candy and prize bags to youth around the El Paso region.

The idea for this giving project began when Karina Monticone, a junior biological sciences major, who was only a freshman at the time, wanted to do something to give back to the El Paso community.

Monticone, who is currently on a path to become a pediatric oncologist, has a deep love for children, which inspired her to create a volunteer project that would bring smiles to those who are most in need.

With Halloween being her favorite holiday, she decided that it was the perfect time of year give back to the kids she adores so much.

“My future career inspired me to create this project,” she said. “I have a passion for kids and I love to see their faces glow. Halloween is my favorite holiday and it feels so rewarding getting to share it with others, especially kids.”

Monticone knew she could not fulfill her project alone, so she brought up the idea to her peers at MPO and it blossomed from a small project into a candy drive that has grown bigger each year.

The MPO aims to deliver candy bags to both kids and teenagers who are spending the holiday in the hospitals due to illnesses that keep then hospitalized for long periods of time. The bags are filled with a variety of treats from candies to small prizes.

“It may seem small, but the kids involved truly enjoy it,” Monticone said.

As for those who may not be able to enjoy the candy due to diet restrictions, they also receive special bags.

“The last thing we want is for anyone to feel excluded,” Monticone explained. “We have prize bags for those who cannot have candy. Inside those bags, we include toys, stickers, pencils and other Halloween knickknacks.” 

The number of candy bags delivered has also grown over the past three years. What started at about 100 bags has grown to almost 400 bags delivered each year.

The MPO has partnered up with other organizations such as the Terry Foundation and chemistry department’s peer leaders to be able to collect donations and reach as many children as possible.

Once the bags have been assembled, the members of the MPO get dressed up in costumes and make the deliveries that aim to light up the faces of the unsuspecting kids.

Carlos Ontiveros, president of MPO and a senior biological sciences major, looks forward to the candy deliveries that bring happiness to many people across the area.

“Seeing a child’s eyes light up when they receive a reminder of the outside world in the patient setting is a uniquely fulfilling experience that we cherish,” Ontiveros said. “Often times, the simple reality of being in a hospital leads to the children not being able to be themselves. However, for a brief period of time, we help them to forget about their situations and give them the chance to be kids.”

Places such as University Medical Center, Sierra Providence Medical Center, the Ronald McDonald House, Reynold’s Home, Beulah Moor Children’s home and many others are some of stops MPO makes during the annual candy drive.

As the charitable project has grown, so has the variety of people. This has led to the increased number in locations including local shelters and nursing homes the organization is able to visit. 

“We provide bags to children, teenagers, young adults and the elderly in the variety of donation locations that we serve,” Ontiveros said.

Senior citizens have also become a major part of the groups the MPO reaches out to as well.

“Everyone loves Halloween and has an inner child at heart,” Monitcone said. “My favorite part is passing out the candy to both the kids and senior citizens. They honestly just want to talk and communicate with you. It’s more than just passing out candy, it’s building connections and letting them know you care about them.”

The hope is that this project continues to grow. It has become an important project for the MPO and has inspired similar projects for other holidays.

“In addition to the annual candy bag drive, we started a card-making drive for Valentine’s Day this past spring that we plan to do again this coming February,” Ontiveros said. “We will also be organizing our annual Thanksgiving basket drive in the near future to serve those in need during the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Giving back is the real drive for Monticone and the members of the MPO. Making a greater and more positive impact within the local community has become a tradition of its own. And it all began with a simple idea by a young freshman, which has now brought joy to many people in the community.

“I’m glad I get to share my favorite time of year with kids and other citizens in the El Paso community,” Monticone said. “They need that extra love.” 

For more information on how to help MPO and their efforts,  they will be hosting an open general meeting in Physical Science Building, room 115, from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, which will be their last collection day.