For the media

Pink pumpkin patch raises awareness for breast cancer

By The Health News Team | October 16, 2023
Landscaping team at Sharp Grossmont Hospital
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Landscapers (left to right) Arturo Reyes, Scott Vylar, Salvadore Diaz, Dennis South and Craig Allen placing the pumpkins.

Landscapers at Sharp Grossmont Hospital painting pumkins
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About 70 pumpkins are painted by hand and fill the pink pumpkin patch.

A landscaper at Sharp Grossmont Hospital with a pink pumpkin
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The pumpkin faces are a unique reflection of the landscaping team who create them.

The pink pumpkin patch at Sharp Grossmont Hospital for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
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Hospital landscapers design a pink pumpkin patch every October to spread awareness and support women diagnosed with breast cancer.

A pink pumpkin in the pumpkin patch at Sharp Grossmont Hospital
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Silly and scary faces are drawn on more than five dozen pumpkins.

One of many pink pumpkins in the pumpkin patch at Sharp Grossmont Hospital
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Landscaper Salvador Diaz shows off a fun picture of his 6-year-old granddaughter on one of the pumpkins.

If we assigned just one color to the month of October, it might be a warm shade of orange, yellow, red or another of the beautiful hues we see in changing autumn leaves. But at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, they think pink.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink is the given color for the cause. You've probably seen or even worn a pink ribbon, the recognized symbol of support and hope that honors women — and some men— affected by the disease. And that’s the inspiration behind Sharp Grossmont’s pink pumpkin patch.

Every October, the landscapers at Sharp Grossmont create a pumpkin patch filled with pink pumpkins arranged in the shape of a ribbon. It’s located in front of the David & Donna Long Cancer Center to support patients with breast cancer and their loved ones and serves as an important reminder about mammography screening.

“We’ve been doing this for the eight years I’ve worked here, possibly longer,” says Craig Allen, landscaping lead in Sharp Grossmont’s Engineering Department. “We do it to honor women who are diagnosed and struggling with breast cancer, and in the hope that they recover.”

Why awareness is important

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in women. About 1 in 8 women are diagnosed in their lifetime, and approximately 43,000 people will die from the disease this year.

A mammogram is one the most valuable screening tools available to catch breast cancer early, when it’s treatable, and in some instances, curable. Women ages 40 to 44 can choose to begin getting screening mammograms. At age 45, annual mammograms are recommended.

But whatever your age, it’s important to talk with your health care provider about your individual risk factors and a screening plan that’s right for you.

Creating a classic pumpkin patch is a labor of love

Just like the pumpkin patch in the beloved classic, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” the Sharp Grossmont patch is also a classic. Allen and four other landscapers — Arturo Reyes, Dennis South, Salvadore (Sal) Diaz and Scott Vydra — took on this year’s labor of love.

Natural pink pumpkins exist but aren’t always easily found. So, Allen orders 60 to 70 orange pumpkins in bulk from a local vendor to fill a ribbon-shaped flower bed in front of the hospital’s cancer center.

The team paints each pumpkin pink and say they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“They’re all unique,” Allen says. “The guys have their own imaginations, and you can see a little bit of everyone’s personalities shine through the faces on the pumpkins.”

For example, many of the pumpkins have silly or scary faces, but one has a figure of a little girl drawn on it. It’s Diaz’s handywork. He has a 6-year-old granddaughter, and in a sweet tribute, drew a whimsical likeness of her on a pumpkin.

When the ribbon is complete, Allen says the team has a feeling of accomplishment. They also feel like they’re doing their part to help.

“People drive by the cancer center and see it, and they honk and smile,” Allen says. “Some people get out of their cars and take pictures in front of it. We take it all as a compliment.”

Allen adds that occasionally, a pumpkin or two may “disappear” from the patch. And the team takes that as a compliment too.

Almost everyone is touched by breast cancer

Throughout the nation, more than 3.8 million women are living with or beyond breast cancer. Most of us know someone — whether it’s a family member or friend — who has been diagnosed.

Eddie Brathwaite is the plant, operations and maintenance associate director of Sodexo, the facilities management partner that oversees the Engineering Department. And he is personally vested in keeping the tradition alive.

“The pink pumpkins represent our continued commitment to raise awareness,” Brathwaite says. “My sister is also a breast cancer survivor.”

Brathwaite says a mammogram screening detected his sister’s cancer early. It’s not lost on him that it could have been a very different outcome, and luckily, she received necessary treatment on time. “I’m blessed to still have her in my life,” he says.

His hope is that someday a cure is found. But until then, his team is committed to helping raise awareness.

Learn more about breast cancer; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

For the news media: To talk to an oncologist or other cancer expert for an upcoming story, please contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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