It’s not just ghosts and ghouls that make Halloween so terrifying in 2020. The second wave of COVID-19 is making trick or treating scary too. Luckily, one local business is offering virtual candy to kids this year.
On Halloween afternoon, Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., St. Catharines’ Code Ninjas will be bringing trick-or-treating from the streets to the screens. Kids in the Niagara Region, and across Canada, can enjoy a safer way to celebrate, collecting virtual candy by playing video games.
Code Ninjas is the world’s largest and fastest-growing kids coding franchise, with hundreds of locations in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom. At their centers, kids learn to code while building their own video games. They gain problem-solving, critical thinking, and STEM skills in a fun, safe, and inspiring environment, according to the company’s website.
“With Code Ninjas, we are a company that teaches the fundamentals of computer programming and coding to kids. We understand the importance of learning these skills at such an early age,” said St. Catharines Code Ninjas Co-owner and Center Director Aaron Mendonca. “We sympathize with the kids right now during this time who can’t go trick or treating. So, we figured why not use our platform to find a way to run a trick or treating event?”
Code Ninjas has locations all across Canada that will be hosting their own Halloween events, and each center will tap into their local community. The St. Catharines Code Ninjas aims to engage the entire Niagara region. There will be a Halloween draw where families can win gift cards and prizes for local small businesses by posting a photo on social media wearing their Halloween costumes while participating in the event and using the hashtag #TechAndTreats.
Mark Wood, owner of the Grimsby restaurant The Forty Public House and the Grantham House in St. Catharines is one of the local sponsors of the event. Other sponsors include St. Catharines stores Big Small Books and NEX Game Store. Code Ninjas has also partnered with Community Crew, a program that provides nutritious lunches to children in need across Niagara. Code Ninjas will be collecting and matching donations for a separate raffle to raise funds and awareness for the lunch program.
“Aaron is a good community minded man and the kind of person I am proud to align myself with. Anything anyone does for kids these days is a big deal. 2020 is tough on everyone, and kids need some attention and normalcy also,” said Wood.
After having a virtual Easter Egg Hunt in the Spring with over 1500 participants, Code Ninjas is looking for an even bigger success with their Halloween event. Using the video game Roblox, they have created a private server that will allow participants to head to a haunted house, walk through a cemetery, and follow clues to find virtual candy.
How virtual trick or treating works
Roblox is free to play, and Code Ninjas will be offering free admission to their private server, allowing any child with access to an Internet-connected computer, tablet, or smartphone the ability to join in on the virtual Halloween event. They have created countless rooms on the server that will host up to 20 children to prevent any service lags, and they will be continuously monitoring the chatroom to ensure an inclusive and appropriate environment for all participants. Siblings and friends can register to participate together.
“I think it’s important to try and find some sort of normalcy for all these kids during these times. They understand, they get it, they almost get it more than us, and being social and engaged is paramount to that,” said Mendonca.
This Roblox trick-or-treating event is the conclusion to Code Ninjas’ “Halloweek”. Members of Code Ninja will be spending the week leading up to Halloween wearing costumes and receiving sweet treats. The Halloween event is open to non-members, and children of all ages that are computer literate are invited to take part.
“We want to bring code ninjas to forefront of communities. We are brand new, trying to show parents importance of coding and the opportunities we can give the kids. We sympathize with these kids. Our Ninjas love Halloween. This is a great way to celebrate. A lot of things are being cancelled and moved around. If we can offer some sort of Halloween magic, it is a fun thing for us,” said Mendonca.
Registration for Code Ninjas’ virtual trick-or-treating event is online, and the team is ready to help answer questions.