HAPPIER HALLOWEEN: Halloween is set to be even scarier this year in Hudson, where approximately 20 trick-or-treaters recently purchased affordable costumes through a program of United Way Youth Venture, a partnership between the United Way of Tri-County and Ashoka’s Youth Venture.
Kids Companion leaders Allyson Waddell, Samantha Johnson, Diana Vasselin, and Olivia Banks, all freshmen at Hudson High School, collected 100 costumes through donation boxes set up at 15 local businesses. On Oct. 6 and 7, the girls hosted a bake sale and sold the costumes for $1 to $5 at the Boys & Girls Clubs of MetroWest in Hudson.
According to Waddell, the $80 raised that weekend will go toward future activities, including a Valentine’s Day project in which elementary school children make cards for pediatric cancer patients, and a summer-reading book drive.
In addition to Kids Companion, two other Youth Venture projects were awarded $1,000 in seed funding and mentorship this summer: the Suicide Prevention Foundation, organized by Hudson High School junior Sydney Oreson, and iLoVeterans, which sophomores Candice DiCenzo and Kayla Monteiro launched to build ties between young people and local military veterans.
If the costume sale was any indication, Waddell said, residents can expect to see a lot of fairy princesses, animals, muscle suits, witches, and various members of the undead on Wednesday night. The group hopes next year’s sale reaches even more youngsters, with the leftover costumes added to new donations.
“People kept telling us how happy they were that we did this, and how much money it saved them,” Waddell said. “We’re hoping it continues to grow.”
For more information about United Way Youth Venture, call 508-370-4858 or go online to www.uwotc.org/youth-venture.
TABLE FOR 20: As owner of Rafanelli Events, Bryan Rafanelli (inset) of Boston has designed five state dinners hosted by first lady Michelle Obama; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s ring ceremony for his 2005 Super Bowl champs; and Chelsea Clinton’s 2010 wedding to Marc Mezvinsky — a source of such pride that Rafanelli says it will be “engraved on my headstone.”
“Celebrations are all about the story,” he said, “and I’ve got a million of them.”
Saturday night, Rafanelli and other celebrity speakers will share their experiences and expertise for Step Up to the Plate, an evening of dinner parties at 11 private homes in Concord, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, and Newton. The eighth annual event will benefit the Second Step, a Newton-based agency that provides long-term support for domestic-violence survivors and their children.
The other speakers are Sheldon and Paula Apsell, physicist and “Nova” producer, respectively; retired state Supreme Judicial Court justice Judith Cowin; stem-cell research pioneer George Daley; award-winning author Andre Dubus III; John Gammel, the lead FBI investigator on the Whitey Bulger case; state Treasurer Steve Grossman; political pollster Gary Orren; economist Richard Parker; Dan Shaughnessy, a Boston Globe sports columnist; and Clara Silverstein, author of “A White House Garden Cookbook.”
In addition to anecdotes from his high-profile events, Rafanelli plans to share tips for making any gathering successful. For example, he encourages hosts to over-communicate parking options, describe what they plan to wear, and offer specific suggestions to guests who insist on bringing something.
“The best events are those in which you express something unique about yourself,” he said. “That’s the key, whether it’s dinner for 20 or a charity event for 1,000.”
The dinner parties Saturday begin at 7 p.m., with each event limited to 20 guests. Tickets start at $225. For more information, call Susan Keliher at 617-965-4173, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.thesecondstep.org.
PICTURE PERFECT: Ten year-old Grace Cohen of North Andover recently expanded her mission of supporting cancer patients and research to include the Vernon Cancer Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
A budding photographer and artist, Grace raised $150 for the Vernon Cancer Center by selling her new line of “Graceful Animals” cards, featuring a butterfly, leopard, and zebras, at the hospital’s HopeWalks event last month. Previously, she donated $2,000 from her line of “Life in Bloom” flower cards to the Jimmy Fund.
The Vernon Cancer Center has special meaning for the Cohen family, as does its mission. Grace began taking her flower pictures for a photography class at summer camp while her mother, Newton native and Wellesley elementary school teacher Deb Cohen, was treated for breast cancer at the Vernon center last year. Now Deb Cohen’s mother, Phyllis Levine Cynamon of West Newton, is a patient there. Her father, Bernard Levine, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2001.
“I want to sell a lot of cards so I can make more money and give it all away,” said Grace, who plans to launch a third line of cards next year depicting the different seasons. “We really want to find a cure so badly. That would be the best thing in the universe.”
For more information, visit www.graciebdesigns.com.
IN-LAW DYNAMICS: As resident scholar at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center, Ruth Nemzoff of Brookline lectures on parenting adult children, relationships, and family dynamics. As the mother of four married children and grandmother of seven, she has also lent personal experience to her new book, “Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family.”
According to Nemzoff, old-fashioned gender roles persist, with sons-in-law criticized for not earning enough money and daughters-in-law for lack of communication. Her book, written for older generations as well as newlyweds, addresses issues involving setting expectations, lending money, and grandparenting. For example, parents may not want their children to watch television or play video games, but may agree to relax the rule if grandparents explain they need a short rest during an otherwise active day.
“My ultimate goal is for the book to start discussions so the in-laws in our lives come to be seen as real family members, not just people to whom we are legally attached,” said Nemzoff, who served three terms in the New Hampshire Legislature. “We all come upon hard times and when we need help, the bigger our networks are, the better.”
Nemzoff will discuss her book Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Newton Free Library, 330 Homer St. For more details, visit www.ruthnemzoff.com.