HELMETTA, MILLTOWN, SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Jill Hetzler is a Milltown native and is a mom of two young children and a popular Physical Education teacher in the Spotswood School District. Hetzler started teaching at her alma mater, Spotswood High School, before teaching at the Appleby and Schoenly Schools. For the 2019 school year, Hetzler teaches only at the district's preschool through first grade elementary school. In honor of a close college friend, Hetzler is spearheading a local We Get It" campaign to help allow all children to enjoy trick or treating fun on Halloween.

While most kids and their families have a blast trick or treating, the annual ritual of walking around the neighborhood and ringing door bells for candy can be a very different experience for children with special needs. After a horrific experience with her autistic son trick or treating, Hetzler's college pal decided to do something to raise awareness about the issue and help everyone from kids with food allergies to those with special needs have a great time on Halloween.

The "We Get It" campaign involves raising awareness about the struggles some children face at Halloween along with offering alternatives to the usual candy fare. The teal pumpkin has become a sign for those suffering from food allergies  to knock on doors with the symbol outside. Homes with teal pumpkins offer trick or treat alternatives that food allergy sufferers can enjoy. However, kids with special needs often have difficulty choosing candy from a container without assistance and can sometimes have trouble communicating with "trick or treat," "please" and "thank you," which can lead to misunderstandings and sometimes anger. Hetzler's friend's son had a door slammed in his face when he grabbed a candy bowl to pull it closer toward him in order to get a peek inside.

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Spotswood, Helmetta and Milltown residents wishing to take part in the "We Get It" campaign can purchase a sign through Hetzler at the Schoenly School. Each sign is $12 and all of the proceeds from the sale go to support Variety, the Children's Charity. The order form can be downloaded online. Participants have the option of getting the #SpotswoodGetsIt, #MilltownGetsIt or HelmettaGetsIt hashtag on the sign.

The campaign is spreading awareness about the difficulties some special needs families face at Halloween by offering suggestions that differ from the usual trick or treat routine including:

  • Having non-candy choices available such as pencils or stickers for children with food allergies
  • Placing candy in bags instead of asking children to pick items from a bowl or bucket
  • Being sensitive to children who are non-verbal or who have trouble engaging in expected social feedback

For additional information and questions about the "We Get It" campaign, email Hetzler at jhetzler@spsd.us or visit the campaign's webpage.