BURNABY — CUPE 23 member Chris Revitt and his family turned their enjoyment of choosing pumpkins at a pumpkin patch into a community event for neighbourhood children, who may be physically or financially unable to get to one.
“I have three kids of my own and every year they visit the pumpkin patch. We realized some of their classmates don’t have the opportunity to go to a pumpkin patch, so we bring the pumpkin patch to them,” said Revitt.
The family built a pumpkin patch last year at South Slope Elementary & BC School for the Deaf. Revitt’s union, CUPE Local 23 that represents civic workers in Burnaby, stepped up to provide sponsorship. That allowed the event to be expanded to include Douglas Road Elementary.
“We work and live in the community so we like to reach out to our community and be active in it,” says CUPE 23 Chairperson Bruce Campbell.
Revitt, a Burnaby Parks Board irrigation worker, says that a good relationship with the schools helps make the event a success. Work gets underway a month before and begins with coordinating with school principals who set up a schedule and ask parents to volunteer.
A lot goes into the community event. Pumpkins, bales of hay and decorations are picked up. Enough popcorn is popped and hot chocolate brewed to serve about 700 students. CUPE 23 members, parents and others in the community get an early start setting up between 350 and 400 pumpkins on fields at both schools over two days. This year pre-school classes were also invited to visit the pumpkin patch.
Each class comes outside in the morning and gets hot chocolate and popcorn to munch while they tour the field and select a pumpkin. Teachers help students paint pumpkins or carve them, and some may even make pumpkin seeds. Last year some children brought their decorated pumpkins to a nearby seniors’ home for them to enjoy as well.
Revitt says that it’s rewarding because the community gets involved. Everyone who stops by is invited to come in and participate.
“You only have to watch the kids, and the parents. When you look at the faces of the kids, they're so excited to be able to pick a pumpkin,” said Revitt.
Everything gets donated at the end. Pumpkins are given away to siblings and family members and some will go to Children’s Hospital. The hay bales go to an animal rescue organization. Decorations get donated back to schools for their school dance or Hallowe’en parties.
“This is an awesome event,” says Kim Pearson, a CUPE 23 member who runs the hot meal program at the school. “It’s very multi-cultural here and this is a great way for everyone to learn about new traditions.”
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