On a balmy night last fall, 70 Baton Rouge General volunteers worked until morning on a secret project.
While the city slept, the crew unloaded a truckload of pumpkins. They lugged 3,000 to an empty field.
But it wasn’t until dawn, when the first light tiptoed across the grass, that the true surprise became apparent. This was no ordinary pumpkin patch.
It was full of rare Porcelain Doll pumpkins. Their colors seemed plucked from that morning’s sunrise: ripe shades of coral, blush, sherbert orange and mint.
This was Baton Rouge General’s debut Pop-Up Pink Pumpkin Patch. It was set up on vacant land the hospital owns at Bluebonnet Boulevard and Picardy Avenue, across the street from the Mall of Louisiana.
As cars passed by on the busy nearby roads that morning, word traveled quickly. Around 5,000 people flocked to the event. Some came for a free pumpkin. Others brought their kids, who climbed on the pumpkin piles for impromptu photo shoots.
By sunset, the gourds were gone. But for weeks afterward, they could be spotted all over the city: perched on porches, propped on stoops during trick-or-treating, racking up likes in social media posts.
It was exactly what Baton Rouge General wanted.
The hospital organized the pop-up to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Armed with the slogan “protect your pumpkins,” the team hoped to remind women older than 40 to schedule an annual mammogram—and that one in eight U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over their lifetimes.
“We have all this land right on Bluebonnet, where we also do our holiday light show,” says Meghan Parrish, Baton Rouge General’s vice president of marketing and communications. “We’re always trying to think of ways we can use that, just because so many people drive by it every day. It’s a great place for us to promote things.”
During early planning, the team thought about painting pumpkins pink. Then they discovered the Porcelain Dolls. The hybrids are cultivated at around 50 farms to promote breast cancer awareness. Baton Rouge General sources them from a North Texas farm.
The pop-up returns this month—and even bigger than last year. The hospital is doubling the pumpkin count to 6,000 and adding a small patch at its Mid City campus. There will be photo stations and games. Think bowling, tic-tac-toe and checkers played with pumpkins.
The date will remain a mystery. But Parrish hints it will be a Saturday in October, pending weather.
“Our vision would be to see a pink pumpkin on every porch in Baton Rouge,” she says. “You notice right away that there’s something different about them.”
It’s a difference she hopes is enough to make visitors think about those whose lives have been altered by breast cancer—and take action to protect themselves.
Because the pink pumpkins are more than pretty Halloween decor. They might just save lives this fall. protectyourpumpkins.com
POP OVER TO THE PATCH
Date will be announced on social media.
Entry and pumpkins are free. “Protect your pumpkins” T-shirts will be available for purchase. Proceeds go toward Pennington Cancer Center, which was Baton Rouge’s first accredited comprehensive breast center.
SCHEDULE YOUR MAMMOGRAM
Attendees older than 40 are encouragedto make appointments at Baton Rouge General’s Mid City, Bluebonnet and Zachary cancer centers.
This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.