This is the fifth year that a Newtown girl has held the Great Pumpkin Challenge. The effort started by Mackenzie Page when she was in 8th grade, to support a family friend who was diagnosed with brain cancer. Mackenzie, now a Newtown High School senior, has worked with local farmers using pumpkins to raise money for her friend Zoe McMorran and Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. The summer camp and center serves children and families coping with cancer and other serious illnesses.
(Bridget Moynahan, Mackenzie Page, Zoe McMorran)
Hundreds of people come every year to leave carved pumpkins on Mackenzie's lawn at 14 Main Street, with the goal to remind people of the great work Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is doing, raise money for kids in need and celebrate Halloween. Each pumpkin is accompanied by a $5 donation. Each year, her family sees some 3,000 trick-or-treaters.
Her family and friends help plan and set up the scaffolding where the pumpkins are displayed. She said she never would have guessed four years ago that the effort would have grown to something of this size. She thanked Newtown residents for supporting the effort over the years.
Camp board member and actress Bridget Moynahan was in Newtown on Friday night to congratulate Mackenzie on her fundraising efforts. Moynahan says Mackenzie has really inspired the community who have helped turn an act of kindness into a massive fundraiser. She says the camp gives kids facing these diseases head on, a chance to be kids again and forget all of the heaviness they have in their lives. Moynahan says one of the great things about the camp is that they support the entire family. They have a hospital outreach program among others. One of Moynahan's friends had a daughter who went to the camp and shared how much it changed their lives. She says she is constantly inspired by stories of how important the camp is, even years after the need for it has passed.
Mackenzie was an honorary chairman of the Travelers Championship this summer. Connecticut’s PGA tour event donates 100 percent of its net proceeds to charities. They donated more than $15,000 to the Great Pumpkin Challenge to be given to the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.
Mackenzie visited the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut this year and surprised Zoe at a family day.
The Life is Good Company has donated $5,000 for the challenge and are matching up to an additional $10,000 to remind others how anyone, anywhere can make a difference in the world around them. The lifestyle brand is dedicated to spreading the power of optimism, and donates 10 percent of its net profits to help kids in need.