To the Editor:

The Brian van Haaften Scholarship Fund was created in memory of my brother after he passed away in a car accident in 2007.

Each year, it is awarded to a New Milford High School senior who wishes to pursue an education in the field of electronics. And each year, many of Brian's friends and family are involved in fundraising events to benefit his scholarship fund.

On Oct. 24, Pumpkin Fest '09 was held at the Odd Fellows Hall in New Milford. Pumpkin Fest was inspired by my brother's love of Halloween and his family and friend's desire to spend time together sharing memories of him.

This was the third year we gathered to carve pumpkins and have dinner, and the second year we had the goal of fundraising in mind. Last year, we raised $1,000 for the scholarship fund. This year, we managed to top that at $1,362.

I'd like to thank some local businesses for their generous donations:

Last year, Stew Leonard in Brookfield was kind enough to donate 25 pumpkins to the cause. This year they came through again and gave a $25 gift card to the store.

Big Y also donated a $20 gift card. These both helped with our ziti dinner supplies.

I want to thank George Harris of Harris Hill Farm for his generous donation of 25 pumpkins last year, without which I may have never been able to get this fundraiser off the ground.

Also, Agway of New Milford donated pumpkins the first two years and would have again this year if we had needed the help.

Without all of these caring individuals and businesses, the Pumpkin Fest dream would have never been realized.

I feel New Milford Wal-Mart and its employees deserve special recognition. Brian had worked at Walmart since it opened, and his friends and co-workers there have gone above and beyond in so many ways since his accident.

Not only are they a constant emotional support to myself and my family, they are the creators of the scholarship fund. They have held many fundraising events themselves, and have made it possible for Pumpkin Fest to be bigger than I ever imagined it could be.

This year, they bought and donated 100 pumpkins from Kimberly Farm and the employees also donated many supplies -- from decorations, to food and drinks and candy for the kids.

They are always willing to lend a helping hand and there is no way to truly express my gratitude to them. I will be forever thankful to the Walmart family of New Milford.

Thank you to my family for supporting me in the craziness that is the planning of Pumpkin Fest. Thank you to my Aunt Jackie for her idea of turning it into a fundraiser, and to my Grammy for being my right-hand woman every step of the way.

Thank you to my parents and cousins, my fiancee and his family, and Bri's friends, who helped set up and clean up the biggest pumpkin gut mess ever.

Last but not least, thank you to everyone who attended Pumpkin Fest '09. Your support and love are my reason for doing this, and your generous donations will make a difference in someone's life.

I am proud to call you my family, too. I always say, it's partly about raising money, but mostly about being together.

I'm looking forward to Pumpkin Fest '10.

Shannon van Haaften

New Milford