Norris

Norris FFA students grew pink pumpkins to raise awareness for breast cancer research.

Courtesy photo

LINCOLN — When she first heard about the prospect of growing pink pumpkins, Meghan Essink was fascinated.

The Norris High School junior hopes to specialize in a horticulture-related field when she enrolls in college.

And when she heard the Norris FFA chapter would be partnering with Bryan Health to raise money for breast cancer after the pumpkins with the distinct hue were grown, it got personal.

Nearly three years ago, her great-grandmother, Doris, died after a battle with breast cancer. Essink wanted to grow the pumpkins in her honor.

"She would love it," Essink said. "She would have supported something like this wholeheartedly."

The Porcelain Doll pumpkins are the result of a cross-pollination process modified to grow pumpkins with a pink tint, Bryan Health radiation manager Karmin Yeackley said.

Yeackley's son-in-law created the special seeds on his Colorado farm and has grown an organization from them to raise money for breast cancer research.

Norris FFA was given free seeds from the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation, and a portion of the money raised will go back to the organization to benefit research.

Essink said she's grown pumpkins before at her home near Adams, but the pink pumpkins presented unique challenges. The pumpkins first grow white, and then the shade tints to a light pink, but not all of her pumpkins ended up changing shades. She managed to grow nearly 30 full-sized pumpkins, but only about 10 ended up with a pink hue.

When the six students who grew pumpkins met Sunday morning at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market to sell their produce, they had nearly 75 pumpkins in tow.

The pumpkins were sold for a freewill donation, raising about $750 to be split between the Bryan Foundation, Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation and Norris FFA.

They sold out in about an hour. And some people donated to the cause without taking a pumpkin.

"The public was awesome," Essink said.

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