When I was in elementary school, I begged to go to a communitywide Halloween carnival put on by the senior class at the local high school. I still remember going through a (very tame) haunted house where I stuck my hands in “guts” and “eyeballs” and visited a fortune teller, a costumed teenager who looked into a crystal ball and, thankfully, saw good things in my future.

When I finally made it to my senior year at that high school, I enthusiastically signed on to help with the same carnival. And now that my son is in elementary school, I raise my hand each year when the call goes out for spring carnival volunteers. Yes, I want to help the parent group raise money, but I also want to help my son have the same kind of positive memories I have of cake walks and cotton candy. And I hope that the good associations he has from the carnival will make him more likely to be involved at school in some way when he has his own children.

PTO and PTA events are more than just events. Each carnival is an opportunity to get families in the door and for kids to make lasting memories. Every potluck dinner or family reading night provides a chance for moms and dads to learn more about what your parent group does and to imagine themselves playing a larger role in it someday. A few kindergarten parents who attend your festival this year may be the ones running the cotton candy machine in a few years. And if you’re lucky, a few of the overexcited kids will someday decide this whole parent group thing is worth their time, too.