Row, row, row your … pumpkin?

  • Yesterday Richard Hildebrandt, president of the Tri-City Children's Dream Foundation, concluded his 150-mile paddling journey down the Wisconsin River in an 800-pound pumpkin.
  • Hildebrandt is attempting to raise $1 million for the foundation, in order to build a children's dream retreat.
  • So far, Hildebrandt has raised around $15 thousand, and donations will be accepted until Oct 23.

Squatting in the bowels of a hollowed-out 800-pound pumpkin, Richard Hildebrandt concluded his 150-mile paddling trip down the Wisconsin River yesterday.

Hildebrandt, president of the Tri-City Children's Dream Foundation, set out on the epic journey of paddling downstream on Oct. 6 at 9 a.m., according to the Foundation's Web site.

The pumpkin voyage is a fundraiser for Hildebrandt's Foundation. According to the Web site, they hope to raise $1 million to build a children's dream retreat, a place where children with special needs can vacation with their families free of cost.

Richard's wife Judy Hildebrandt said the foundation has been in existence for seven years and used to help the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

"Now the foundation is helping kids who do not have terminal illnesses," Hildebrandt said. "Some clients didn't understand that these trips (through Make-a-Wish) were one-time experiences, and that they couldn't go again."

The dream retreat would create an escape for these kids and their families, and they could return every year if they want to, all expenses paid, Hildebrandt said.

Hildebrandt said they raised around $15,000, last time she checked. The Ho Chunk Nation donated $10,000.

Jeff Jasurda, sophomore in the College of Business Administration, said he thinks this is a great idea for a fundraiser. However, Jasurda said, he would like to make some pumpkin pie out of that giant pumpkin.

"I wonder how many pumpkin pies that could have made. I love pumpkin pie," Jasurda said.

According to the foundation's Web site, Hildebrandt's pumpkin pontoon was donated to the foundation courtesy of Nikki Hunt of the Central Wisconsin Pumpkin Growers.

According to the site, Hildebrandt first cast off from The Lure Bar & Grill's boat dock, located near Nekoosa, Wis. His final destination was the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien, Wis.

This morning the pumpkin was placed on display at 1010 Market Street in Nekoosa, Wis., according to the site.

Gail Schumann, adjunct professor of biological sciences, said she has never heard of anybody paddling in a giant pumpkin, but she said they would make good floating devices once hollowed out.

"They are basically the same species (as squash)," Schumann said. "The giant pumpkins have just been selected over the years to have certain features. The biological key is to cut off the competing squash on the same vine so all photosynthetic energy is concentrated on one fruit."

Those interested in Hildebrandt's giant pumpkin and its cause can donate until Oct. 23 by calling (877) 232-9798.