By SCOTT AUST
Holcomb sophomore Maggie Roth hopes to see a pink pumpkin on every porch in Finney County.
"I think everyone is affected by cancer, whether it's themselves or a family member or friend," she said. "Everyone is affected by it at some point in their life."
Roth, 15, has spent the past four months raising pink pumpkins on her family's farm as part of a Future Farmers of America project and a fundraiser on behalf of breast cancer research.
While no one in her immediate family has had breast cancer, Roth said a grandfather had cancer.
After the national FFA convention in Indianapolis last year, Roth was looking for a project to do for her SAE, supervised agricultural experience, and stumbled upon the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation website.
"We thought it fit good because my dad has been growing pumpkins for over 26 years," she said.
According to its website, the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation was created in 2012 to aid in the fight against breast cancer.
Using special seeds, called Porcelain Doll, growers raise and sell pink pumpkins and pledge a percentage of proceeds to organizations involved in breast cancer research. The foundation oversees the donations to ensure the funds go directly to reputable organizations with the highest percentage of dollars spent on actual research.
FFA chapters interested in growing pink pumpkins as a fundraiser were able to get free Porcelain Doll seeds from Seedway.
Individual chapters donate at least half of pumpkin sale proceeds to the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation to be used for breast cancer research grants at the end of the year. The balance of the sales could be used at the chapter's discretion to cover growing expenses, support other charitable causes, or donate the full amount to the Foundation.
Roth said she intends to give 100 percent of the sales back for cancer research.
Roth contacted the president of the Foundation to get Holcomb's FFA involved but also with the goal of trying to get as many FFA chapters from across the country involved.
Roth said she thought it might be possible to get maybe 10 chapters, but when she emailed the New York executive secretary it got a lot of interest.
"When we saw how much interest there was we decided to contact as many states as we could," she said. "I think I made contact with 40 states. Right now, we have about 70 chapters participating. Some are doing well, but some have had weird weather so their pumpkins have died."
About two-and-a-half acres of the farm were used to grow the pink pumpkins, using 5,000 seeds from the Foundation.
Dwane Roth, Maggie's father, said the pink variety are heavier and a bit more dense than the normal pumpkin he grows.
"You can see the color in the pumpkin — some are beige, some are neutral. We really didn't have conducive weather. It was 105 for several days and then dropped to 85. For anything growing like that, it messes them up," he said.
As a result, Roth said there will be some pumpkins that are really pink and some that aren't quite there yet. But still, it's part of a good cause.
As to be expected, Roth is proud of his daughter.
"She's a lot different than me when I was younger. I'm glad," he said. "She's very positive. This SAE project, I think it's teaching her about how you need to deal with people. It's teaching her life skills, which are just as important as business skills."
Roth and his wife, Kimberly, have two other daughters — Grace, a sixth-grader, and Rachelle, who works at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.
In addition to pumpkins, Roth grows wheat, corn and milo. Each October, Roth allows kids from Holcomb to come out and pick out regular pumpkins for Halloween, and also donates pumpkins to churches, the Finney County Library and Lee Richardson Zoo.
In addition to FFA, Maggie Roth plays volleyball and softball for Holcomb High School and is in K.A.Y. Club, Student Council, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She said she doesn't really have any hobbies but enjoys hanging out with her friends.
"I plan to go to college, but I don't know what I want to be when I grow up," she said when asked what she planned to do after high school. Right now she's thinking about going to college at Kansas State University.
One thing Maggie is sure of is that she plans to continue the pink pumpkin project every year until she graduates. She hopes others will take on the responsibility after that.
The pink pumpkins are on sale for $10 each.
Roth will be selling them at the Holcomb junior varsity football game tonight and at Holcomb varsity home football games, and on Oct. 8 she will sell them at the "Dig Pink Night" in Holcomb, a volleyball match featuring Holcomb, Southwestern Heights and Scott City.
Beginning the weekend of Sept. 27 and 28, Roth will be selling pumpkins on the weekends at Wharton's in Garden City.
Maggie said it feels good to be doing something to benefit others.
"Just talking to people, you see how touched they are," she said. "And it's good to know you're doing something good."