Discover Card $1-per-pumpkin Awards



On October 5, 2012, Let it Shine, Inc., received the kind of phone call communities dream of: Discover Card was offering $1 per pumpkin to the winner of the Keene/Highwood Challenge called Pumpkin Wars by HGTV. If Highwood, IL, had the most lit jack-o'-lanterns, they would win $1 per pumpkin for the non-profit educational cause of their choice. The city with the smaller tally would receive $10,000--a very generous consolation prize!

Highwood chose their public library as their designated recipient.

Let it Shine/Keene wouldn't have time to get community input so postponed deciding which good cause would receive the $1-per-pumpkin if/when Keene won.


Keene's 29,381 jack-o-lanterns seemed like second place on October 20. But eleven days later, the official Highwood tally was revealed during the Pumpkin Wars show and Keene celebrated its win.


How the Discover Card $1-per-pumpkin Prizes were awarded by Let it Shine, Inc.

• Two philosophies were used to weigh entries:

1) "Helping the Pumpkin Festival=Helping Your Community"
2) "Hard work pays."

• The criteria of "helping the Pumpkin Festival" includes pumpkins, participation, person-power and other support.
• Schools and non-profits with educational missions applied, telling us about wonderful educational efforts in the region. The applications were heartwarming and moving. Here are the winners, selected by unanimous vote of the Let it Shine Board of Directors.


Excerpts from some of the winning applications
Wheelock School $5,000
From their application: "Our playground, which is an east side community center, is sorely in need of new, safe upgrades; swings no longer meet safety code, and other structures have been removed due to disrepair. With a grant of $5,000, we could purchase and install a 4 bay commercial swing set, a basketball hoop, and a four way ball toss. All of this would be available to the community after school hours, and would remind our students of their contribution to the 2012 Keene PumpkinFest. Wheelock School has always participated in pumpkin carving as a school-wide activity. The concept of community and contributions to one's community are valued and taught in each of our classrooms. This will continue at Wheelock School."

Keene Montessori School $1,500
From their application:

Our school has been trying to establish a gardening program for our children. We started out with great enthusiasm last spring, only to end up being flooded during the storm in May (we are in the Beaver Brook flood area). We were relocated for about 6 weeks and lost the garden. We would like to start the garden again with raised beds, bring in some good rich dirt and have a proper place for storing equipment. Our garden would include a pumpkin patch. Our vision would be for the children to experience the full cycle of the pumpkin festival, from the seed planted in the earth, caring for their pumpkin plants, watching their pumpkins grow, and then contributing their pumpkins to the pumpkin festival, to the lighting of the candle in their pumpkins. This would enable the children to feel they have more of a part in the pumpkin festival, that it is not just something that the adults in their lives put together.

Keene State College $5,000
From their application:

The award would be used to expand our internship, community service and service learning programs, enabling more students to commit thousands of hours of work to helping community organizations, businesses and local towns and provide their time and talents to help meet community needs. Among lessons they learn are how collaboration results in a better solution to a problem, that hard work can be fun, and that their contributions can be very positive and valuable to their community partners. It also results in a greater appreciation for our community neighbors, which in turn fosters more respect for the community at large. We plan on continuing our efforts to support future festivals, engaging more students in positive ways, and hope to develop more joint teams comprised of both community and College members. This will help students to become more a part of the community and in turn want to help the community to thrive.

Keene High School $5,000
From their application:

One of our goals is to teach handicap awareness to those who are not handicapped. We run REACT, a high school organization that brings those with and those without handicaps together to make each other realize that we are all "the same" deep down. We eliminate the "class" system in the school and interact socially with both groups on a regular basis. Since the state no longer contributes funds for this project (budget cuts) the money would be used to cover costs related to teaching, training, transporting, and costs of programming. As long as there is a pumpkin festival, we will continue to work with other vendors that need our help. We will participate as a vendor and will continue to clean up on the Sunday following the festival.

Cheshire Children's Museum $4,500
From their application:

We would bring programming to the museum. We have two areas in which we want to offer the community programming for children to learn through play:
1. Creative learning through art. Our workshops, led by local artists, would encourage children to learn to express themselves in different ways.
2. Strengthening math skills. Through a series of fun and engaging workshops, we will reinforce or teach new skills in different mathematical areas - fractions, decimals, number problems, etc.

Nelson School $381
From their application:

Many Nelson School children attended the Pumpkin Festival and enjoyed "finding their pumpkin." The Nelson School will invest this award to purchase books for the school library so that the "gift" keeps giving year after year. Being a very small school, money to purchase books for the library is not always given priority. However, even $30.00 can purchase books--one of which will be Scooped which tells of the very first Halloween. Each year, for the past 10 years, the students of Nelson School have carved pumpkins for the Festival and I know that we will continue with this tradition. We have parents who volunteer to help as well as all members of the staff. We are a high achieving small school of 25 students. Each year part of our work is community service as we believe it is important to instill that each person can make a difference.

Fuller Elementary School $1,000
From their application:

Fuller School children actively participated in the Keene Pumpkin Festival. Each child in the school carved a pumpkin to be displayed during the festival. Many were assisted with the carving by parents, who visited school or attended evening parent-student activity sessions. Children are excited to attend the festival with their families and friends to see their own creation displayed on Main Street.The funds requested will be utilized to buy books required to develop a leveled reader library. The library will be utilized by teachers in grade K-5 as they teach and develop reading skills by matching book readability levels with student skill levels. Reading "real books" generates an interest and proficiency in reading that is one of our most important goals.Fuller School will participate in the Pumpkin Festival as long as it is part of the Keene Community. There are several important traditions in the community, but Pumpkin Festival generates unequaled excitement and participation in the school. Grade five children look forward to helping with the pumpkin delivery as a right of passage. Children in the upper grades help the younger kids design faces to be carved, and parents and teachers organize a number of activities around the event. It is hard to imagine Fuller in October without all that the Pumpkin Fesitival brings to the school.

Marlborough School $500
From their applications:

Every year our school has a morning of pumpkin carving. One teacher in our building has her husband take our 200 plus pumpkins to the fair. We carve as a school community, inviting children's families to come and participate with them. It is an amazing time to see the bright eyes of the children carving their masterpieces.If we receive funds it the money will go to support to independent learning initiatives. The first is Lego club where children use Legos and creativity to design objects where their dreams at limitless. The second is to our math club. This is a club where we use recreational math to have fun. Often we create 3-d objects from paper. The money will be used to supply Legos and paper to both of these clubs. We hope to open children's minds to the possibilities of math.
Our school has a high rate of poverty. These funds will go a long way in inspiring many children to explore math in a new and exciting way. They almost don' t realize that they are doing math. The best part is when the bell rings and kids say what? Where did time go. It can't be over. Additionally, we plan to create an integrated math unit that relates to how to count the pumpkins, how much room 30,000 pumpkins take up, and maybe even try to get students involved in the counting process. We feel that it would be relevant and motivating to teach math in this way.

Cutler Elementary School $500
From their application:

Cutler Elementary School continues to provide an evening of family fun, centered on pumpkin carving for the Keene Festival. We are able to have all of our carved creations on display along the bleachers in our multipurpose room for all of our students to see prior to shipping them to Keene. We also incorporate a variety of enrichment activities for some of students based on counting, classifying estimating etc. This year our families carved 250+/- pumpkins that were transported to the festival! Cutler Elementary School is engaged in a comprehensive Literacy and Writing initiative. Funds from this grant will enable us to purchase more materials to support this initiative.Each fall we begin to build a sense of excitement in our school focusing on the community pumpkin carving. Families that do not typically attend school events do come out for this event. I anticipate that we will continue with the tradition as long as the festival continues in Keene. I firmly believe that the festival is one event that breaks the barriers of town lines, and encourages the entire region to become one unit.
Applause to Let it Shine for taking up the cause!


Franklin School $500
Jon Daniels $500
Symonds $500
Cutler Elementary School $500
Mt Caesar Elementary $500
Marlborough School $500
Nelson School $381
Fuller Elementary School $1000
Cheshire Children's Museum $4500
Keene Montessori School $1500
MoCo Arts $500
Keene Senior Center $500
ConVal Scholarship Foundation $3000
Keene High School Interact $5000
Keene State College $5000
Wheelock School $5000