Giving back

Volunteers fan out for United Way’s annual Day of Caring

Halloween may be more than a month away, but you wouldn’t have known it on Friday at the Seattle Children’s Museum.

That’s where you could find dozens of volunteers hard at work, putting together everything from plaster zombie hands, to sugar skulls, cardboard bats, and fake spiders, all in preparation of next month’s Costume Carnival.

It was all part of the United Way’s Day of Caring, as more than 13,000 people fanned out to nearly 250 nonprofits around the state, providing thousands of hours of much-needed assistance.

Amy Hale, the Children’s Museum’s director of education and volunteers, called the help from Holland America Line employees “incredibly important in many ways.”

“That’s a whole lot of people power that, all concentrated in a short period of time, that can really knock out some huge things for us,” she said.

Hale estimated that two-thirds of the preparation work for the carnival, which draws thousands to the museum on Halloween, would get done that day.

“There is no way we would get those materials created with the staff that we have, without those folks,” she said.

Ryan Walsh, a senior project administrator with Holland America Line was among those to spend his Friday helping out. He said it was not only a chance to lend a hand, but for employees from across the company to interact with each other in a way they typically wouldn’t.

“When we saw this opportunity that’s like, three blocks from our headquarters, it’s like, incredible that we’re able to impact something that’s so close to us,” he said.

Also among the thousands of volunteers in the Puget Sound were employees from Paccar — who removed weeds and planted trees and shrubs with EarthCorps at Discovery Park — while Washington Holdings workers made their yearly trip to the Queen Anne Food Bank for a day of work. Several tiny houses that will sit on the new Tent City 5 location just off the Magnolia Bridge in Interbay were painted with the help of Microsoft employees.

While Hale was effusive in her praise of the many hands making light work, she also encouraged others to consider becoming volunteers on a weekly or monthly basis as well. She also noted a new visitor ambassador program, where volunteers would come in weekly, and engage directly with museum visitors. After six months, they would receive a free membership for one year.

Meanwhile, the work on Friday may have inspired volunteers to do even more in their communities.

Walsh said some of those on hand would be back on Oct. 31 to help and see their work in its finished state.

The costume carnival will run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the museum, for kids 10 and under and their families. Admission is free for members, $5 per person for non-members, both children and adults. All proceeds will go toward funding for exhibits and programming, with a focus on the museum’s new STEM initiative.

For more information on the United Way of King County, visit To learn more about the Seattle Children’s Museum, the costume carnival, and how to volunteer, go to, or contact Hale at 206-576-2330. To comment on this story, write to