Fun is Like a Jack-o-Lantern

As adults, we can all benefit from (not so much finding time, but) making time for fun in our lives. That means recognizing fun’s unique power to help us retain a youthful enthusiasm, and committing to it even when our calendars appear packed with more serious business.

If fun has the power to draw people together, as we’ve witnessed throughout our lives, why not draw them together for a good cause?

In 2003, we took our first large-scale crack at doing just that. Children have always been Life is Good’s ultimate inspiration.  Guided by their spontaneous spirit and the motivation of our Fuel community, we did what any sound-minded leaders of a fledgling T-shirt business would do. We hosted a Pumpkin Festival.

In fact, for the next four years, we hosted Life is Good Pumpkin Fests in several locations, using one simple, silly and unifying goal to rally communities around a very serious cause: attempting to break the Guinness World Record for most carved, lit jack-o-lanterns in one place at one time.

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We had little clue how to scale such events, but once again we learned that “the work will teach you how to do it.” We teamed with a great Maine-based non-profit called Camp Sunshine, which supports children facing life-threatening illnesses and their families. The first year we were stunned by the turnout of over ten thousand people, rolling out of their trucks filled with pumpkins and ready to carve their contributions.

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We offered simple throwback games like sack races, home run derby and obstacle courses for kids and grownups alike. Each year the crowds, the official count of lit pumpkins, and the fundraising numbers grew. Eventually, in 2006 on The Boston Common, the nation’s oldest public park, a huge festival crowd managed to carve and light 30,128 pumpkins to break the world record together. More importantly, we raised great awareness and over $500,000 that day for Camp Sunshine.

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One of the best parts of those early Fests was watching people search the winding pumpkin rows and pumpkin towers (the largest one forty feet high) for their own personalized carvings to show their friends. People could look up at nightfall and say, “Wow, I was a part of something beautiful that happened today.”

The first Festivals confirmed what we had hoped: Fun is like a jack-o-lantern itself. We have to work sometimes to keep it flickering. Especially in the harder times, we are all drawn to that light, and to each other. We all want to be part of something positive — sometimes it just takes a little fun to bring us together.

See More Good Vibes.

This article is excerpted and adapted from the book Life is Good by Bert and John Jacobs, published by National Geographic on September 1, 2015. Copyright © 2015 The Life is Good Company.

Read more in Life is Good: The Book