This is part of The Globe and Mail's in-depth look at the evolution of philanthropy. Read more from the series here.
While other nine-year-olds might have spent their fall weekends playing video games, Jamie Burrell was tending his pumpkin patch. For the second year in a row, the Grade 4 entrepreneur grew his own Halloween gourds to raise money for rescued animals at the Toronto Humane Society, setting up a pumpkin stand at Bayview Glen Public School. Friends, family and classmates pitched in, drumming up a total of $400 this month, with a hot chocolate sale and a walkathon planned for later in the school year – putting Jamie on track to beat last year's total of $1,300. Jamie, who has two cats, Hootie and Mango, proudly carried a box full of bills, coins and cheques to the shelter to donate the proceeds.
“About two years ago, my sister and my cousins and me all grew pumpkins at my grandfather’s house in Newmarket. He said if I can grow more, I can sell them. So I got a pumpkin and took all the seeds out – it took an hour – and I put them in little pots. When they got big enough, they got transplanted. Every single Sunday, we went out to water the pumpkins. My uncles and cousins watered them when we weren’t there.”
“We had about 80 pumpkins, all different kinds – $5 for the big ones, $4 for the medium, $3 for the small. We had special ones called knuckleheads. They had warts on them and we didn’t even know it at first. We also had albinos, white pumpkins, for $10.”
“When my pop told me I could sell them, I thought, what if I could sell them and give the money to charity? So I asked my friends Justin and Khole to help me, and they said yes.”
“My dad took me to Home Depot and we built our own stand – like a little shop with the pumpkins out on the front of it. Then he drove to school with his car all full of pumpkins. We put up signs at school and people just came swarming in. One time we had a huge lineup. We also did a walkathon at school this summer where the class that raised the most money got a cotton candy party. We raised $802 from that. And every single person who donated got ice cream.”
What keeps you going?
“I chose the Toronto Humane Society because of the little hurt animals in the news reports. People bring them in when they’re abandoned. The animals can get a better life, more food and they can get adopted.”
“The best part is that I got to do it with my friends. They’re really, really, really good guys.”
“We’re gonna do it again next year, and the year after that. For Halloween this year, we carved the biggest pumpkin of all of them. It was pink on one side and green on the other, and white. My costume was a zombie skeleton.
This interview has been condensed and edited.