How suburban homeowners are getting crafty to keep trick-or-treaters happy

  • To ensure her family and trick-or-treaters maintain proper physical distance, Debbie Gross of Buffalo Grove devised a delivery system that allows her to feed candy through a 6-foot tube to a waiting trick-or-treater.

      To ensure her family and trick-or-treaters maintain proper physical distance, Debbie Gross of Buffalo Grove devised a delivery system that allows her to feed candy through a 6-foot tube to a waiting trick-or-treater. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • University of Southern California engineering student Gage Bachmann of Palatine demonstrates the Halloween delivery system he devised for his parents.

      University of Southern California engineering student Gage Bachmann of Palatine demonstrates the Halloween delivery system he devised for his parents. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Amy Bachmann's engineering student son Gage invented a Halloween treat delivery system that allows the Palatine family to pass out candy.

      Amy Bachmann's engineering student son Gage invented a Halloween treat delivery system that allows the Palatine family to pass out candy. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • The Bachmann family of Palatine will adhere to COVID-19 guidelines to physically distance from Halloween trick-or-treaters by using a goody delivery system engineered by son Gage Bachmann.

      The Bachmann family of Palatine will adhere to COVID-19 guidelines to physically distance from Halloween trick-or-treaters by using a goody delivery system engineered by son Gage Bachmann. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Debbie Gross, of Buffalo Grove, says it cost her about $22 to build her Halloween treat delivery system that allows her to deliver candy to trick-or-treaters through a 6-foot PVC tube.

      Debbie Gross, of Buffalo Grove, says it cost her about $22 to build her Halloween treat delivery system that allows her to deliver candy to trick-or-treaters through a 6-foot PVC tube. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Buffalo Grove's Gross family devised a COVID-19-inspired treat delivery system for Halloween 2020.

      Buffalo Grove's Gross family devised a COVID-19-inspired treat delivery system for Halloween 2020. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • For Halloween 2020, USC engineering student Gage Bachmann, of Palatine, invented a Halloween treat delivery system.

      For Halloween 2020, USC engineering student Gage Bachmann, of Palatine, invented a Halloween treat delivery system. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/26/2020 6:03 AM

With countless celebrations curtailed by COVID-19, a resourceful Buffalo Grove woman was determined not to let the pandemic undo another tradition. To that end, Debbie Gross crafted a coronavirus-inspired contraption to safely deliver goodies to Halloween trick-or-treaters and spread a little joy in the process.

She bought PVC pipe from the hardware store that she wrapped in black and orange tape and threaded through a cardboard box decorated with a skeleton and Halloween stickers. She and her husband even attached a spare doorbell so -- come Saturday -- her $22 gadget will allow them to dispense candy at a distance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We are so excited to have a safe candy distribution system," Gross said. "We are even going to ladle the candy into the tube so it's not touched."

Gross isn't the only homeowner planning to spread Halloween cheer in spite of a recent spike in new COVID-19 cases and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warnings about trick-or treating. And she's not the only homeowner repurposing PVC pipe to do it.

Vicki Bousson of Lindenhurst bought two, 6-foot pieces with connectors that she'll fashion into a chute extending from her porch to a small table where the treats will be deposited.

Bousson says she'll decorate the contraption with glow-in-the-dark paint.

"I may go all out and put glitter on it," she laughed.

Bousson plans to wear a face mask and gloves. She's also considering using chalk to draw monster footprints on the sidewalk to keep youngsters 6 feet apart.

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"I want the kids to have fun," she said. "You feel bad for them because they've received the short end of the stick ... Kids need to get out there and be kids."

A zip line inspired the candy delivery system debuts Oct. 31 at Amy Bachmann's Palatine house. Designed by her son Gage, an engineering student at the University of Southern California, it has a decorated bucket that deposits candy into waiting hands. In fact, Bachmann thinks her fifth-grade daughter may be more excited to run the line than collect her own candy Saturday.

"We have a handful of younger kids on the block," Bachmann said. "We wanted to create a socially distant way kids on our block could be out in costumes and visit a handful of houses safely."

Halloween 2020 will look different, but Bachmann says that's OK. "We need to re-imagine the things that bring us joy," she said. When it comes to handing out candy, Sara Murdock has a less elaborate system in mind. She'll place goodies in sealed plastic bags and leave them outside her home. But Halloween candy delivered through a chute appeals to the Carpentersville mom who says it will make retrieving treats easier for her oldest daughter who uses a wheelchair.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Murdock's children -- ages 15, 8 and 2 -- will wear face coverings while trick-or-treating and maintain their distance from other groups.

"We're going to be careful but we're still going to try to have some fun," she said.

Having a child with special needs means her family always takes precautions.

"We make the best of every situation," Murdock said. "There is always a chance my daughter could get an infection detrimental to her, so we roll with it."

Erin Chapa's 5-year-old son has been planning his Mario Brothers costume since June and she wouldn't think of denying him the chance to show it off. But with twin newborns and a pending visit from in-laws, she and her husband have narrowed his typical trick-or-treating route to include several neighbors and nearby relatives.

"I don't want to expose grandma," said the Westchester woman. "We'll get even more strict than we have been."

Relying on the honor system, Chapa intends to leave treats on a table on her front lawn.

Frances Fennessy will also monitor the costume parade from afar.

"I love Halloween," said the Schaumburg woman. "I'll be on the driveway, the treats will be in baskets and the kids can take what they want."

Fennessy is all for taking precautions, using face coverings and physically distancing, but she doesn't want kids to miss out on doing things that might bring them happiness.

Carol Allain, meanwhile, says she doesn't plan to take special precautions. The Rolling Meadows mother of 14-year-old twins plans to hand out treats on her front porch. Because it's outdoors and doesn't involve close interaction, Allain said she isn't worried about coronavirus transmission during trick-or-treating.

"I don't think we need to be overcautious," she said.

While other parents may disagree, many say they want to give pint-size revelers a Halloween to remember.

"The most important thing," Gross said, "is to bring some normalcy to the lives of our kids."

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