Collection times have been set for this Saturday, October 26, and Sunday, October 27, for the Great Pumpkin Challenge.
This is the third year Newtown High School sophomore Mackenzie Page has challenged residents to carve a pumpkin, drop it off for display at her home at 14 Main Street, and offer a suggested donation of $5. Drop-off hours are between 10 am and 5 pm both days.
In 2011 Mackenzie began The Great Pumpkin Challenge 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.
In August Mackenzie told The Bee 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 year with all of the collected money going to the camp.
Mackenzie wrote a letter to the editor in early October. In it she wrote, “I wish that I could take my friend Zoe’s cancer away, but that’s not how it works. What I can do is support her courage and strength. She inspires me and I am committed to making a difference in her life through celebrating friends, family, community and benefiting the lives of other kids going through difficult situations.”
Last year, Mackenzie said The Great Pumpkin Challenge raised $3,500, and 93 pumpkins were put on display at her Main Street home. With Halloween postponed due to early November last year, the pumpkins were lit nightly until trick-or-treaters arrived on Main Street.
“We’re encouraging everyone who carves a pumpkin to come out on Halloween and see them all lit up,” Mackenzie said this week.
Mackenzie has been busy in the past few weeks, and she has been keeping the Great Pumpkin Challenge of Newtown Facebook page followers up-to-date with regular posts.
On October 13, Mackenzie posted an announcement to “Stop by Castle Hill Farm today, it’s a great day for it! We’re out selling hats, bracelets, and telling people about the challenge.”
She was also in attendance at the Newtown Lions Club’s Great Pumpkin Race on Saturday, October 19, and the Sandy Hook Diner has been, and will continue through Halloween, selling $5 bracelets. The bracelets are white with orange pumpkins and lettering that reads, “I Made A Difference.”
Brown baseball hats are also being sold this year for $20 that read “Make A Difference” in white and “Newtown, CT” in orange.
Mackenzie said the hats and bracelets will also be on sale this weekend during pumpkin drop-off hours.
For those who can’t make this weekend’s drop-off but still want to participate, Mackenzie has also set up an online page for the Great Pumpkin Challenge, www.greatpumpkinchallenge.org, where donations allow givers to buy a “virtual pumpkin.”
Something new is also in the works, according to Mackenzie. Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is putting together booklets so other people in towns across the country can create their own Great Pumpkin Challenge to support the camp.
Mackenzie said, once created, the booklets will be like Great Pumpkin Challenge “how to” directions. One woman in Trumbull has already been in contact with Mackenzie to establish a Great Pumpkin Challenge there.