SACO – Residents have stepped forward with donations of money — and pumpkins — to support a family whose fundraising pumpkin patch was destroyed by vandals late last month.

Jason Berry said his family planned to sell pumpkins from the patch to raise money to help meet the needs of his 5-year-old son, Andrew, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. The patch was destroyed by vandals on the night Tropical Storm Irene swept through Maine.

Since then, Berry said, he has received numerous letters of support, visits from neighbors, donations in excess of $130 and gifts of pumpkins. He said the family plans to sell the pumpkins in October in place of those that the vandals stole or destroyed.

“I know whoever took (the pumpkins) probably doesn’t realize who they took them from,” Berry said. “I’m not mad now because of this tenfold of good that’s come out of this.”

A plywood sign still stands in the Berry family’s pumpkin patch on Buxton Road. It reads: “R Disabled Son Thanks U 4 Stealing His Pumpkins.”

The Berrys plant a garden each spring for their own use. This year, Berry took one pumpkin from the garden and tossed it across the street. That one pumpkin yielded 120 plants, and an idea.

“We had the idea that we’ll raise all these pumpkins and try to sell them,” Berry said.

Cerebral palsy affects Andrew’s muscle tone, movement and motor skills, and epilepsy causes recurring seizures. Because of the disorders, Berry said, Andrew uses a wheelchair and does not speak.

The money raised from the pumpkins would have helped with his care. Berry said his family hoped to remodel their bathroom to make it more accessible and build a ramp into the house.

During the night of Aug. 28, vandals stole the three largest pumpkins and destroyed much of the crop.

When Berry saw the extent of the damage, he said, “I was sick to my stomach.”

The family reported the incident to Saco police Sgt. Bruce Cote. The police are still investigating and ask anyone with information to contact them.

As news of the vandalism has spread, Berry said, the community has helped turn the awful situation into something positive, donating money, pumpkins and words of encouragement.

Because of all the support, the Berrys have changed their plans. They still will have the pumpkin sale but plan to divide up the money they raise among local organizations rather than devoting it to their son’s needs.

“It’s gotten to be so big, we kind of feel like we want to donate (the money) to a good cause so people know where their money is going,” Berry said.

The causes include the Morrison Center in Scarborough and the Epilepsy Foundation of Maine, which hosts an annual walk in Saco that the Berrys participate in as “Andrew’s Angels.”

Andrew attends an afternoon program at the Morrison Center, where he gets a preschool experience coupled with the attention and medical care he needs.

The nonprofit organization has programs for children and adults with or without developmental disabilities, said Childcare Coordinator Katie Vigue Halligan. Like many nonprofits, she said, it relies on donations and sponsors to keep running.

“Every little bit helps, especially here in our preschool department,” Halligan said.

Berry said his family now hopes that what started as something to help Andrew can help others with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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