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Richard's mouse-kin

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

The question was a daunting one: How do you get ears on a pumpkin?

No need to ask why put ears on a pumpkin. Richard Quan, a 17-year-old living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who has been in and out of Canuck Place Children's Hospice for nearly 10 years, wanted ears on his pumpkin.

When nine Vancouver Canucks and Fin visited Canuck Place Friday afternoon to celebrate Halloween and carve pumpkins with the children of the house, Dale Weise and Cody Hodgson were paired with Richard and his ambitious pumpkin goals.

Richard’s pumpkin needed ears because Deadmau5 has ears and his finished product was to resemble the electro, house band’s logo; in a nutshell it features Mickey Mouse-like ears, jumbo googly eyes and a larger than life smile.

After an hour of measuring, stenciling, cutting, carving, scraping and gutting by a team of six people, including Hodgson's sisters Caroline and Charlotte, Richard emerged with the larger than life smile.

“It’s better than I thought it would be,” said Richard, proudly donning a navy blue Canucks t-shirt with LINDEN on the back. “The ears were tough, but we found a way to do it.”

Two prongs and eight toothpicks held the massive ears in place to complete the “awesome pumpkin mouse,” which only got better with the addition of a custom Wiese #32 mini-pumpkin in its mouth and a hand-crafted #9 from Hodgson resting in its eye.

The final product was a work of art, it’s a shame the mouse-kin will concave and rot before long, but the experience of spending time with his idols will be with Richard through the good times and the bad as he continues fighting an up-hill battle.

This was an experience newcomer Weise won’t soon forget either, and not just because this was his first visit to Canuck Place.

The 23-year-old, without an excuse to save him, had never before carved a pumpkin.

“I feel like it was always snowing, so maybe it was too cold to carve pumpkins in Winnipeg?”

Sorry Weise, I’m a fellow Manitoban and even when it was cold enough snowmen were crying, my family still carved pumpkins.

“I guess that’s a bad excuse then,” he laughed. “We always had one on our front porch, I just never got into it. But now, look what we made, this is probably the greatest pumpkin I’ve ever seen in my life. It should be framed. There’s a lot of talent in this room.”

The room Weise spoke of was the kitchen at Canuck Place and as is the case in most homes, the more crowded the kitchen, the happier the house.

There were upwards of 40 people and a whale, Fin, dressed as a banana, “Finana,” in the kitchen at one time and the atmosphere was joyful.

Cory Schneider and his buddy John made a four-sided pumpkin with four separate faces, each more frightening then the last.

Keith Ballard and Andrew Ebbett worked with Jayden on a spooky black cat, as did Dan Hamhuis, Aaron Volpatti and their friends.

Poppy, a two-year-old female Golden Retriever trained by Pacific Assistance Dogs to be a therapeutic companion to the children and families of Canuck Place, toured around dressed as a pumpkin; there was face-painting and candy and cookies and laughter.

It was truly the one-of-a-kind Halloween party the children of Canuck Place deserved.

“This is one the best pumpkin carvings in a long time, we haven’t had this many players in about five or six years, and they really filled the house and connected with our children and families,” said Filomena Nalewajek, chief executive officer of Canuck Place.

“These families are walking an incredibly difficult journey, their children are dying and everywhere they go it’s one challenge after another, so to be able to have a little bright light in their day is very special. This is a bright light being here with the Vancouver Canucks engaging in an age-old tradition and having a fun time with them, who gets to do that?”

Richard did, and his tour de force mouse-kin had ears. Big ones.

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