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Great Pumpkin Challenge To Return To Main Street

Photo: Bee file photo

The first year Mackenzie Page issued The Great Pumpkin Challenge, she received 149 jack o’lanterns for the fundraiser and seasonal offering. Donations received when residents dropped off their carved or painted pumpkins totaled over $3,700 that year, which were donated between a family friend fighting cancer and the American Cancer Society.  

It may be the middle of summer, but one Newtown High School student is already thinking about pumpkins.

Rising Newtown High School sophomore Mackenzie Page is planning to issue her yearly challenge to Newtown again this fall, in the hopes that The Great Pumpkin Challenge will enhance the tradition of celebrating Halloween on Main Street.

This will mark the third year Mackenzie has challenged residents to carve a pumpkin, drop it off for display at her home on Main Street, and offer a donation.

Mackenzie began The Great Pumpkin Challenge in 2011 to support family friend Zoe McMorran, who was battling brain cancer. That first year donations raised went to the McMorran family and the American Cancer Association.

This week Mackenzie said her decision last year to donate part of the donations to The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp, Paul Newman’s nonprofit organization for seriously ill children, will be furthered this fall with all of the collected money going to the camp.

“It’s just helping even more kids and it is helping Zoe too,” said Mackenzie, explaining the children will be helped by The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.

Mackenzie had a chance to visit the camp last winter, and she said that trip was “amazing.”

“I could tell just from being there for one day, the kids, they have fun there,” Mackenzie said.

In 2012, Mackenzie said The Great Pumpkin Challenge raised $3,500, and 93 pumpkins were put on display at her Main Street home. They were lit nightly until trick-or-treaters arrived on Main Street.

One thing Mackenzie has learned over the last two years, she said, is to prepare when a storm is on its way. Last year all of the pumpkins collected for The Great Pumpkin Challenge had to be stored on Mackenzie’s front porch prior to Superstorm Sandy’s arrival in Newtown. Luckily, none of the pumpkins were harmed, and, by the time Halloween on Main Street took place in early November, Mackenzie said her family was able to get the word out to everyone that The Great Pumpkin Challenge was also still going to take place.

Mackenzie said she is hoping nothing like Superstorm Sandy happens again this year.

“The overall reactions have been pretty positive,” said Mackenzie.

Last year Mackenzie said she saw people pull up to the side of the road before her house to stop and take a photo of all of the pumpkins on display.

While dates for collecting pumpkins have not been set, a few things will return for this year’s Great Pumpkin Challenge, according to Mackenzie. Like before, Mackenzie said a jug will be put outside her home to accept direct donations. Her family will again wait outside their home during collection days to gather the carved pumpkins. Mackenzie also said her family will set up a table at Castle Hill Farm Route 302 on Sundays to collect money and donated pumpkins.

One new addition this year, Mackenzie said, will be hats. She said she is planning to sell hats and is also thinking about making bracelets to sell for The Great Pumpkin Challenge.

Over the last two years, Mackenzie has seen many jack-o-lanterns. Her best advice, she said, for participants in the 2013 Great Pumpkin Challenge is to be creative.

For additional information visit www.GreatPumpkinChallenge.org or send a note to mackenzie@GreatPumpkin-Challenge.org. There is also a Facebook page, Great Pumpkin Challenge of Newtown, that offers regular updates on the project. A gallery of pumpkins from 2011 and 2012 is also available on the Challenge’s website.

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