By Kirk Starratt
Organizers of the Squash CF Pumpkin Launch have discovered another good use for those bright orange gourds left over after Halloween: raising money for Cystic Fibrosis research.
Dana Sceerey of Berwick, among the participants, flung one pumpkin so far it cleared all targets and the chain link fence behind. A homerun, if you will, at the Nov. 4 event held at the Kingston ball field.
“It’s a blast,” Sceerey said. “I wasn’t here to win a prize; I just wanted to launch one.”
He said it seemed everyone was having a lot of fun with the unique fundraiser. He attended the first pumpkin launch last year and said there is a lot of support for it in the community.
Event volunteer Jodi Crowell of Halifax was helping because organizer Tim Vallillee is one of her best friends. She and a friend do a lot of volunteer work in Halifax and wanted to learn the ins and outs for a possible companion fundraiser in the city in the future.
“It just looks like too much darn fun,” Crowell said as she helped decorate the pumpkin launcher.
Vallillee, who was diagnosed at birth with Cystic Fibrosis, said it felt great to see so many people from across the Valley turn out to help raise funds for research.
“We wouldn’t be successful without public support,” he said.
Vallillee, 44, said this is very much a fundraiser for him and his friends. Cystic Fibrosis didn’t affect him very much until he started getting older. He’s now experiencing reduced lung function and has spent time in the hospital each year for the past three years.
“The key thing is maintaining my lung function,” he said.
Vallillee, who got married this past summer, currently has about 40 per cent lung function, whereas the average person might have as much as 90 or 95 per cent. Because of this, he is unable physically to do a lot of things. However, Vallillee hasn’t let it slow him much, as he is part of a thriving local classic rock band, Joker’s Right.
“We play around quite a bit,” he said.
The fundraiser featured a barbecue, a bounce castle, children’s games, live music and more, not to mention two adult pumpkin launchers and the children’s launcher, new this year. The event was also live streamed online.
Vallillee said the first launch last year was somewhat experimental and they learned a lot to help things run more smoothly this year. He wasn’t sure where exactly the idea of launching pumpkins as a fundraiser came from, but they wanted to try something different and unique.
For a $5 donation, participants could lob a gourd across the field at several targets. Anyone who hit a specific target had their name entered for a prize draw and anyone who hit the top four targets was invited back for a launch-off later in the afternoon. Vallillee said they launched 300 pumpkins last year, but had 1,000 on hand this time.
“It has potential to be a huge fundraiser as long as the weather works with us,” he said.
There was no final tally on funds raised for the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Society through this year’s event available as of deadline. Last year’s launch raised $2,600. Prizes valued at more than $3,000 in total were donated by the community for this year’s launch.