Paint is splattered on tables, students hustling and pushing around a table in order to get their perfect pumpkin. Gathering their pumpkin and tools, the students are able to decorate it however they want and donate them to an organization of their choice. Students from all grade levels are mobbing the table of blow dryers intending to be first in line. In the distance, one student is blow drying hair that was painted as part of their design and another student is still deciding what they want to paint.
The pumpkin painting party was founded 22 years ago, long before Peace Jam ever existed at Loy Norrix. The event started out very small with only ten organizations that were willing to accept the pumpkins. For the first year the current advisor of Peace Jam, Sveri May, organized the event by herself with very few students painting pumpkins. Now the event has drastically transformed with over 40 different organizations receiving the pumpkins and almost 400 students attending.
“It makes me sincerely happy and overjoyed to see how much the pumpkin painting party has changed over time” said May, “The painting of a pumpkin has more meaning than most think.”
The pumpkin designs range from halloween themes and cancer awareness to student pleas of gaining followers on instagram or twitter. There are some who devote their painting to school spirit or over dilemmas such as Michigan versus State, and some that go beyond what most would expect. There are students who take their time and effort to make the best out of their pumpkin, knowing that it will go to someone who will truly love the effort and dedication put into it. Mayeesha Nayeem is one of these dedicated students, she stayed long after the event ended in order to complete her Halloween themed masterpiece.
“I just think that the person who is getting my pumpkin should get the best one,” said Nayeem.
The pumpkins represent the efforts of Loy Norrix students to give back to others and to let the organizations know that the school is thinking about them.
“These pumpkins with its various designs like halloween ghouls to twitter accounts are adorable and amusing that it brings cheer to the people who look at them,” said Resource Director at Loaves and Fishes Gretta Faworski.
Many students like to paint things that raise awareness to the current problems in today’s society.
“My pumpkin supports women’s rights and is going to Planned Parenthood, for women should naturally have the same rights as men,” said sophomore Naomi Vern.
While other students paint pumpkins and don’t give much attention as to which organization it goes to, Naomi Vern has taken great care and attention to make the most out of this opportunity.
The coordinators take great care into making sure that the painted pumpkin is appropriate for the place that it is going to.
“I have to make sure that the pumpkins are age appropriate and make sure that they aren’t bad for its destination. We don’t want a pumpkin with a swear word on it to go to a children’s hospital, right?” said senior Joanna Yiu.
The pumpkin painting party serves as a way for students to give back to the community in any little way they can and to raise awareness to support organizations around Kalamazoo.
“It’s easy to get caught up in your own life, but to understand that there are others who are struggling truly shows a caring and kind person,” said Faworski.
Many students of Loy Norrix are unaware of the ways that they can support people who aren’t as fortunate as them, and the pumpkin painting party seeks to show students what they can do.
“It is a fun and small way for kids to give back to the community and can open doors to other service opportunities that students are interested in and can participate in,” said May.
Many of the community organizations that are on the list for pumpkins are people in need. One of the locations in need is the Rose Arbor Hospice center for terminally ill people. They received the pumpkins with much gratitude. It’s a special thing for people to give time and effort in order to give what little they can to those such as the terminally ill.
“[The Pumpkin Painting Party] helps the community know how caring and awesome Loy Norrix students are,” said May.