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November 2, 2009

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Pumpkin house a community treat

Steve Williams carved 406 pumpkins to decorate his West Vancouver yard.Steve Williams carved 406 pumpkins to decorate his West Vancouver yard.WEST VANCOUVER—Sick children got a Halloween outing thanks to CUPE 873 paramedic Steve Williams and his Halloween pumpkin house. Williams carved 406 pumpkins and decorated his yard in West Vancouver for the 19th year running. The pumpkin house was open on October 30 and 31.

Steve started carving the pumpkins last Friday. When he starts he has no idea of what he’s going to carve: he looks at the pumpkin and considers what he’s going to do with it. “The first 100 are fine, then it’s a challenge to come up with different designs,” says Williams.

“I get burnt out and ask myself, ‘What am I doing?’ but then I think of the kids from all these facilities that come in our ambulances, and that really re-sparks me.”

The night before Halloween, ambulance paramedics pick up kids from their wards at Children’s Hospital, Sunnyhill, Easter Seal House, Ronald McDonald House and Canuck Place. Sometimes children do the tour on stretchers, but they all enjoy the fantastic display and the goodies.

CUPE 873 members William Yeung and Gord Cavanagh volunteered to drive kids to the pumpkin house.CUPE 873 members William Yeung and Gord Cavanagh volunteered to drive kids to the pumpkin house.Steve Williams and wife Debra say they could not put this event on without the many volunteers who pitch in. Two dozen ambulance paramedics staffed the 12 ambulances and another 20 volunteered to do traffic control.

William Yeung and Gord Cavanagh are ambulance paramedics who work out of Cloverdale who volunteered as drivers on the night before Halloween. This is the second year Yeung has participated and the first for Cavanagh.

“I think the point is it’s just to have fun. It’s for the kids and for a good cause. Volunteering can be hard to do because of family and other commitments, but it’s really worth it,” says Yeung.

Ambulance paramedics, neighbours and other volunteers start lighting the candles at about 5:30PM and it takes about an hour. They put four candles in each pumpkin, lighting two, with a re-light a few hours later. That’s all repeated for the public on Halloween night.

Steve’s West Vancouver pumpkin house has become an annual community event. Grocery stores on the North Shore donate pumpkins, and other businesses donate candles, heaters, tables and chairs for volunteers. The District of West Vancouver allows Steve to turn his street into a one-way street and supplies all the signs and barricades. The Lions Club has participated for the last ten years.

The money raised through donations goes to Canuck Place and Easter Seal House.

Steve Williams and his wife Debra are actively involved with other charities as well.Steve Williams and his wife Debra are actively involved with other charities as well.Steve is also involved in other charity work including “Motorcycle Rides for Dad” which is a cross-Canada fundraiser for prostate cancer that raised $120,000 this year. He also organizes “The 9/11 Memorial Ride” a memorial motorcycle ride that involves all emergency workers including ambulance paramedics, police and firefighters, plus military and border personnel to commemorate those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack in New York. They ride to the Peace Arch and hold a cross-border service on September 11 at 9:11AM.

Steve is a dispatch officer and his wife Debra recently retired after 24 years of service with emergency services.

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