Prison inmates grow pumpkins to donate to school for children with disabilities

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MIDVALE, Utah (ABC4 News) – It wouldn’t feel like October without pumpkins and fall festivities.

Students at Jordan Valley Schoool, a special education school for kids with disabilities, celebrated the season with their cherished pumpkin tradition. 

Each year officers from the Utah Department of Corrections deliver hundreds of pumpkins to schools within the Canyons School District. 

The gourds are grown, harvested and donated by inmates in the Utah Correctional Industries’ Green Thumb Nursery as part of a horticultural apprenticeship program. 

The greenhouse workers grow annuals, perennials, grasses, groundcover, and vegetables to sell to greenhouses and government agencies.

The hallmark of the program is the annual pumpkin harvest. Scott Crowther, Director of Utah Corrections Industries says the inmates get to find joy in the opportunity to give back to their communities through their talented acts of service.

Crowther says one of the major benefits of the program is that inmates are able to pay it forward. He says it makes their day and that students will often send thank you letters showing their appreciation for the donations. 

This year, 300 pumpkins were donated to Jordan Valley School for children who experience mental and physical disabilities. The students were able to wander around the schools’ lawn picking their perfect pumpkin to take home. 

Crowther says this event is well-loved by everyone each year. “It’s a way for us to give back to a portion of the population that we don’t interact with on a regular basis. It’s an opportunity for our staff to come out and experience the joy of giving back to the community,” Crowther says. 

He says he chooses to return each year to see the joy on the Jordan Valley School kid’s faces. “It’s all about the kids, right? There is nothing else that we do that will bring this much pure joy and love into your heart, into your body as watching these kids take these pumpkins and be so excited about it,” Crowther says. 

Karen Medlin, Acting Principal of Jordan Valley School while the principal in on leave says the pumpkins mean the world to the administrators who spend their days teaching the students. 

“Our kids sometimes fight for the recognition of being kids, and the fact that you have a group of people that are doing things for our kids. That they are willing to have their time and their effort and donate them to the kids, it’s just a thrilling experience,” Medlin says. 

Medlin says she started her career at Jordan Valley School and remembers the joy of the pumpkins in the 80s. She says sometimes people who interact with her students feel scared or intimidated. “What I want people to know is…their kids, they are just like any other kids and all you need to do is say hi, just say hi them,” Medlin says.

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