It’s time to pick your pumpkin for Halloween. Most area patches offer the orange variety, but one farmer planted a different color with the goal of raising money.
The color orange usually pops through green farm fields this time of year. But, one pumpkin patch in Panora is a little different. Bill Ridgley says, “This is a type of pink. You’ll also have some of them blue.”
Ridgley started planting the pink pumpkins a few years ago. He says, “Well they call me Farmer Bill.” The different hues come from special seeds. He says, “Some of them are very unusual shapes.”
You might think he’s raising awareness for breast cancer, but that really isn’t his goal. He says, “Pink is one, unusual for a pumpkin. And, two it relates to cancer, and the challenge that cancer is related to.”
Ridgley has harvested nearly 600 pink pumpkins on land around Panora. And, it’s all in honor of a little girl named Tori Heckman. Her Grandma Jackie Wicks says, “Well Tori was born with a heart defect called tetralogy of fallot. And, she wasn’t diagnosed until she was about 8 months old.”
Tori is now 8 years old, and you’d never guess everything the smiling girl has been through. Wicks says, “She’s had six surgeries so far, 8 open heart and one under each arm where they went in through her rib cage to work on her heart.”
Tori almost didn’t survive the first surgery. The last two happened in Boston, which cost the family thousands of dollars in co-pays, travel and lodging expenses. Wicks says, “That’s where the foundation came in three years ago. It’s a struggle for parents to have a sick child.”
After raising money for Tori, Ridgley and other volunteers started the Tori’s Angels Foundation. The group provides money for kids with life threatening medical conditions, many with cancer. Ridgley says, “We tell the parents, you worry about getting your kids well. We’ll worry about the finances.”
The foundation recently adopted its tenth child. And, with each pink pumpkin sold, Ridgley hopes they’re able to become angels to more kids like Tori. He says, “She’s our miracle child and she’s doing great right now.”
The Tori’s Angels Foundation holds many other fundraisers in central Iowa throughout the year. The next one is Sunday, October 13th in Pleasant Hill. It’s a spaghetti dinner and silent auction with a free will offering. The event is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Assembly Hall on NE 56th Street. The food is donated, so all the proceeds go to the kids. Pink pumpkins will also be on sale for $10, all of that money going to the kids as well.