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Pumpkin patch profits Derby siblings find a way to raise money for charity

Instead of simply focusing on Halloween as a time for fun, three Derby siblings have made the season a way to give to a good cause.

For the past three years, Sarah, Shawn, and Patrick Schneider have grown and sold pumpkins to raise money for charity. This year they have raised $900 and have a goal of $1,000.

The project began with their father, John Schneider, who came up with the idea after asking a local man to donate pumpkins to the Evans Lions Club. The pumpkins were handed out at a local Halloween parade, but Schneider thought it would be a good idea to grow them. He had an acre of his land plowed in the Town of Evans and, after growing and selling their pumpkin crop, the family was able to donate $300 to the Lions Club for various charitable causes.

"I got the kids involved and they did a lot of the work," he says. "They do the planting and the picking."

Sarah, 12, Shawn, 10, and Patrick, 15, sell the pumpkins from the front of their home on Wisconsin Road and also leave some at the ACE Hardware store in Derby. People have been very receptive to their idea, they say, often leaving generous amounts of money behind. "We've had fifties and stuff found when we've retrieved the money from ACE and we think people are buying pumpkins, but also donating," says Shawn. They plan on donating the money to the SPCA, a cause which is close to animal-lover Sarah's heart. She raised $200 this summer for the SPCA selling lemonade with friends and says she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. Sarah and Shawn attend Southtowns Catholic; Patrick attends St. Francis High School.

The Schneiders planted the pumpkins the first week of June. "It's fairly simple to grow pumpkins," their dad says. "You get them in the ground at the right time and as long as the weather cooperates, you get a good crop."

"We planted our seeds by hand," says Shawn. "First you need to plow the field and then you plant the seeds." The family says that they had the perfect pumpkin-growing weather this year, as opposed to last year, which was too dry to grow a good crop. They ended up selling very few and saved the money raised to combine with this year's donation.

The Schneiders have many plans for future pumpkin-growing endeavors. They hope to make changes to their pumpkin field to make it more efficient. "We're thinking about extending the path all the way around so that we don't drive through the field and we're thinking about putting a path straight up the middle," Shawn says. "We're also thinking about putting a pond over there in case we have another drought."

They are also assessing which charities they will donate to in the future. "We just listen around for charities that need donations or would like some donations," Sarah says. "We have a lot of donation plans for the future," Shawn says. "Maybe Father Baker or our school, Southtowns Catholic. Our school puts up a Christmas tree and you can buy a jacket or boots and put them by the Christmas tree and they send it away to give to homeless people. We might buy a whole bunch of stuff for them."

Rachel Dobiesz is a freshman at Hilbert College

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