Charity benefits from eerie Southport pumpkin 'plot'
When life gives you pumpkins -- lots and lots of pumpkins -- make a donation to charity.
At least that's the reaction by the Howat family of Southport after more than 80 pumpkins of all different sizes were mysteriously dropped off in their Sasco River Lane backyard Wednesday morning.
Brooke Howat said the first sign that things were out of sorts took place about 2 a.m. that morning when she heard one of the family's dogs barking. "I figured it was a skunk" that had caught the dog's attention, she said. The next morning she looked out the window, and since she was not wearing her glasses or contacts, saw only a large blur of orange.
Perhaps, Howat thought, it was a tarp. She went outside to investigate, and found the glowing pile was no tarp, but pumpkins. Lots of them, 30 to 40 at least.
As of Friday, the family still had no plausible explanation for the puzzling pop-up pumpkin patch. But they resolved that the jumbo supply of jack o'lanterns in waiting would not go to waste.
The pumpkins can be bought in exchange for a donation on Sunday to TeamBrent, a local cancer charity that raises funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children's Hospital and the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
The pumpkin sale will take place Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Howat home, 100 Sasco River Lane. There is no set price for the pumpkins; people are asked to give a donation in exchange for a gourd.
The idea of using the pumpkins for charity came from Howat's sons, Max and Fin. Max is a third-grade student at Greens Farms Academy in Westport with Brent McCreesh, the 9-year-old whose own battle with stage-four neuroblastoma cancer was the genesis for TeamBrent in 2005.
Max said his first thought when he saw all the pumpkins "was some robber had left them as a prank. I didn't know what was going on. It was really weird and mysterious."
He said he was a little "freaked out" at first, but no more.
Fin has his own theory: "High school kids."
Their mom said it would have taken a lot of effort to deposit the pumpkins in the family's back yard. "There's a 6-foot deer fence all around, they were all the way at the back of the property," Howat said. "They were walking back there in the middle of the pouring rain at 2 a.m."
The pumpkins have since been moved to the front yard to make things easier for the Sunday event, and the Howats' pumpkin supply will get a boost from the neighbor across the street. The neighbor has 40 pumpkins that served as decorations for a wedding rehearsal dinner Friday night, and those will be donated to the cause as well.
"It's a really neat thing," said Brent's mother, Dana McCreesh. "And what I think is amazing is when Brooke asked her kids what should we do they say, `Let's donate to charity.' "
As for Brent, McCreesh said he is doing very well. "He's over six and a half years cancer free and your average third-grader," she said. "He's very happy."
For more information about TeamBrent, visit http://teambrent.com.