by Jessica Langdon
GARDNER — With rows of pumpkins to pick from, apple cider donuts to devour and rides and games galore, it can be hard to pin down the best part of spending an October Saturday at the pumpkin patch.
Six-year-old Maggie Minnis, whose family belongs to Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, votes for the zip line.
“I like the beanbag slide,” offered nine-year-old Joey Punswick, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park.
His friend, nine-year-old Austin Turner, agreed.
The boys were two of eight Webelos from Pack 3265 at Holy Spirit who pitched in on Oct. 5 at the KC Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze, a day designed to help families send their children to Catholic schools.
The Catholic Education Foundation Futures committee — a group of young professionals in their 20s to 40s who are dedicated to CEF’s mission — invited families out to the pumpkin patch in Gardner for the day to help raise funds for scholarships.
Unlike the kids, the adults who turned out for the CEF day had no problem identifying their favorite part.
“You see a dollar given turn into a dollar of good,” said Hamp Henning, the chairman of the CEF board.
He and fellow members of his band — The Hamptones — spent several hours entertaining the crowd in support of Catholic education.
“It’s easy to rally around,” he said of this cause, especially when you look at the numbers.
This year, CEF is providing roughly $1.1 million in scholarships to help approximately 1,400 students attend 20 CEF schools.
A Catholic education can help create a well-rounded student with a solid foundation in the faith, said John Minnis, a member of the CEF board and the Futures committee.
His wife Angie, as well as his father, sister and sister-in-law have all taught at CEF schools, so their family has quite a few CEF connections.
CEF Futures events often hold a big draw for people in their 20s, and this reached even further, to parents in their 30s and 40s — as well as their kids, he said.
The KC Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze is a longstanding tradition for Kevin and Jennie Punswick, members of Holy Spirit, who took their five kids out for the CEF day.
Jennie is a member of the CEF board and Futures committee, and loves the cause.
“It’s nice to see so many Catholic families come out here, not only to just enjoy the pumpkin patch, but to be together for a common goal — giving back to the Catholic community and allowing scholarships for kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have this education,” said Kevin Punswick.
“We feel so strongly about Catholic education for our own children that we feel it’s important for those people who would like to have it, but just don’t have the means to do it,” he continued.
Plus, he said, the pumpkin patch is owned and operated by a wonderful Catholic family.
Julie Berggren, who opened the pumpkin patch 11 years ago with her husband Kirk and their three kids — Jacob, Taylor and Eli — was thrilled to see so many Catholic families arriving on the crisp, sunny day.
After supporting CEF in other ways, the Berggrens were delighted that hosting visitors to their pumpkin patch would translate into scholarship funds.
“CEF does have a wonderful mission, and I think they do an amazing job of reaching the community and helping those that just need a little bit of help realizing their dream of making a Catholic education possible for their children,” said Julie Berggren.
Taylor Berggren, now a graduate of Kansas State University in Manhattan, hopes this will become a tradition.
“I heard one kid say they’ve been out here since the beginning — since we opened — and they’re still having fun,” she said.
The Berggren family sees a wealth of opportunities for other area businesses to help in their own ways.
“I think CEF has really gone out of their way to make wonderful events, and I would encourage anyone that has a business in the Kansas City area to really step up and offer your business and your resources to help make scholarships possible for children,” said Julie Berggren. “Our real goal in life is to help each other get to heaven — and this is just another step closer.”