Local teenager Jim Zellmer and his family have inspired a community with their annual Pumpkins for a Cure Festival. The event, now in its eighth year, benefits the Zellmer Childhood Disease Foundation (ZCDF) which was founded in 2004 by Jim’s parents, Mary Agnes and Paul Zellmer.
Pumpkins for a Cure will feature Harvest Taste and Trick or Trot 10k as its fundraising components. A variety of activities will take place during the festival including
- Face painting for kids of all ages
- Story Time featuring The Littlest Pumpkin book, giveaway to the first 100 kids
- Family entertainment by Miss Carol’s Macaroni Soup
- Haunted Hay rides
- Pony rides for kids
- Free hot dogs courtesy of Fifth Third Bank
- Professional pumpkin carving by Marc Solomon
- Black Hat Day- Each merchant in downtown Geneva will feature a special or free give away for anyone wearing a black hat. Look for the “Be Bewitched” sign and go inside for specials.
The Trick or Trot 10k race will kick off the day’s activities at 7:30am by leading runners through downtown Geneva, Fox River Trail and Fabyan Gardens before finally making their way back to the Courthouse lawn for a strong finish. A post-race party awaits with music and entertainment. Registration is online at http://www.zcdf.org/trick-or-trot-10k-registration and closes on September 27th at 9:00pm. All runners will receive a shirt and goody bag.
Midafternoon, festival goers will have the opportunity to watch a food demonstration by Chef Judson Allen, aka ‘Architect of Flavor’ whose recently been seen on the Food Network’s Food Network Star competition. Judson will prepare a savory dish that brings together both creativity and flavor for a healthy bite. Born and raised in the Chatham Community of Chicago, Illinois, Allen was introduced to flavorful foods at a very young age. Growing up in Louisiana, Judson’s grandfather’s Creole traditions and style of cooking influenced his culinary point of view and his love for food, led him to attend the only urban agricultural high school in the city of Chicago, “The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences”, where he majored in Food Science. He later graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. The crowd favorite each year is Harvest Taste, a competition where Fox Valley restaurants submit a sweet or savory dish of their own creation for judging by both a professional panel and public tasters. Judges include Chef Alain Roby (Head Judge – All Chocolate Kitchen), Chef Hans Aeschbacher (The Palace Grill), Dana Sanza (Flavorist, FONA International), Phil Vettel (Chicago Tribune Food Critic), Renee Zonka (Dean of Culinary Arts at Kendall College), Esther Roby (All Chocolate Kitchen) and Renee Ferguson (Author “Talk Turkey To Me” & Food Network guest on Down with Bobby Flay). Entrants will create one full-size serving for each judge and 500, ‘bite-sized samples’ tell sell to festival goers. Tickets are $20 (or $10 each) to sample ‘sweet’ and ‘savory’ dishes.
Teams of students will compete in the Culinary Competition where local culinary schools compete for top prizes while producing a dramatic fall food sculpture that is three feet long and three feet high. When the allotted time is up, each team has to successfully move their sculpture to the judges table!
The idea for Pumpkins came from Jim who was diagnosed at six years old with Type 1 diabetes. While trying to comprehend that his life would change forever, a young Jim tearfully pleaded to his mother to fix what was wrong with him. Mary Agnes explains, “As parents, we put on a brave face despite our own shock. At the hospital we learned to give shots and test blood sugars and Jim never complained, then after a week we went home and he asked us how much longer he needed to do this. My husband explained it would be for the rest of his life and my son was devastated. He thought since we left the hospital, he was cured.”
A few months after Jim’s diagnosis, a twenty-eight year old, neighborhood woman died in her sleep from Type I diabetes when her blood sugar dropped so low that she stopped breathing. Both Paul and Mary Agnes were stunned. Realizing diabetes could be fatal, they knew they needed to fundraise and find a cure for Jimmy and the 20.8 million Americans that live with diabetes every day.
Jim was on board to help and suggested growing pumpkins at his grandparent’s farm in Western Iowa and selling them to raise money. What started out in the front yard eventually moved to the golf course and in their first year, raised over $6k and founded the Zellmer Childhood Disease Foundation. Up until now, the Zellmers have raised over $250,000 for diabetes research.
Now fourteen, Jim has enlisted the help of his younger brother, Joe, in starting the ‘James and Joseph Zellmer Scholarship Fund’ which helps send children to diabetes camp so that they can learn how to stay healthy and have fun with other kids.
The ZCDF is 501C3 non-profit organized and operated exclusively for charitable and educational purposes and supports the education and research related to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of chronic childhood diseases. Pumpkins for a Cure Festival is FREE to attend and a schedule of the day’s activities along with additional information can be viewed at www.zcdf.org.