Rotarys Pumpkins for Literacy patch open

Fundraiser supports three school districts

MARYSVILLE The Pumpkin patch is open.
The fall brings lots of things to the north county area, but the Pumpkins for Literacy patch is one with lots of winners, mostly elementary students in the Arlington, Lakewood and Marysville school districts.
In the seven years the Marysville Rotary has been holding the event more than $110,000 has been raised for the three Snohomish County school districts, and this year will be the second at a new, larger venue. The Plant Farm at Smokey Point offers more room for exhibits, attractions and pumpkins, of course, so even chairman Paul Jay has a new title. The Pumpkin Czar said there are already more than 3,500 students signed up for field trips to the patch, and Jay expects at least 6,000 during the month-long fundraiser.
The patch has the traditional hayrides, train rides for kids, bouncy houses and petting zoo. There is no charge for admission or any of those attractions; the only things to pay for are pumpkins, which start at $2, and the concessions. All the proceeds go toward literacy efforts in local schools, including $1,000 for each elementary school. Last year Rotary members gave age-appropriate dictionaries to every third-grader in the Marysville school district.
This year organizers have built a story barn on the site, where volunteers from local retirement homes will read to children. With lots of room to expand, Jay thinks there might be a lot more activities in the future. The response to the location has been phenomenal, Jay said.
Last year was the largest fundraiser ever for the patch, with more than $35,000 raised. Jay said Rotary volunteers staff the pumpkin patch seven days a week, estimating they give at least 600 hours of their time during the month-long event.
Its a big production to put on, it really is, Jay said.
Pinewood Elementary School Principal Breeze Williams can vouch for that. She watched Jay and several of his peers handing out dictionaries to third-graders at her Marysville school last spring and noted how excited her students were to be able to take the brand new books home with them. In addition the school has used the money to buy other books for the library collection, including a series of big books to let children learn together.
Last year we bought big books to do shared reading, Williams said. We get to purchase things that we otherwise couldnt purchase.
Kindergarten teacher Judy DeMarco has taken her class to the patch for several years now, and the trip is always fun for her youngsters. They each get to bring a small pumpkin back with them, but DeMarco encourages families to make the trip when they set out to make their Jack O Lanterns and other fall fare. The pumpkin patch is a much more orderly affair these days and has grown in scope and sophistication, she added.
Its a great way to get reading back into the schools, DeMarco said.
Williams said the free books and money for operations are great but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The real show is the huge amount of work volunteers put in to raise the money.
Ive seen Rotarians out there in the rain and giving kids train rides in the rain, in order to be able to give books to kids and I think thats generosity at its best, Williams said.
The patch opened on Oct. 6 and goes until Oct. 30. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, and is located at the Plant Farm at Smokey Point, on Twin Lakes Avenue, west of I-5.
To schedule a classroom field trip, call the Marysville office of North County Bank at 360-653-3100.

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