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Pumpkin-picking day for cancer-affected families in Locust Valley

Felix Ruderman, 1, of Sea Cliff, searches for

Felix Ruderman, 1, of Sea Cliff, searches for a pumpkin at Clark Botanic Garden in Roslyn Heights during an event sponsored by Penelope's Odyssey that offered 100 pumpkins to families with sick children and an opportunity to paint them. (Oct. 13, 2012) Credit: Brittany Wait

Pumpkin picking, sing-alongs and face-painting. They’re normal childhood activities, but for children with pediatric cancer it means everything: a sense of normalcy, a chance to be a kid again.

That’s what Lori Schneider and her family aims to provide to at least 80 children on Sunday.

In September 2010, her daughter Penelope was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3. After she received a bone-marrow transplant in January 2011, her family formed a nonprofit called Penelope’s Odyssey to raise awareness for pediatric cancers. Now 6, Penelope is in remission.

Penelope’s Odyssey “Warriors Pumpkin Patch Fall Festival” for children affected by pediatric cancers will be held Sunday at Bailey Arboretum in Locust Valley from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“This is to help children experience normal childhood experiences and memories,” said Schneider, 36, of Sea Cliff. “That’s always been our mission since the beginning.”

The festival is open to children and families affected by pediatric cancer. Those interested in attending can receive an invitation email by visiting the nonprofit’s website,

Children can pick their own pumpkin, courtesy of Hicks Nursery in Westbury, and paint them, in between taking pictures with Otto the Ghost and listening to music by Sea Cliff musician Kris Rice.

“These kids need those experiences outside of the hospital,” Schneider said. “This event is so important to us because Penelope missed out on Halloween when she was diagnosed and she was so upset. Pumpkin picking is a perfect opportunity for these kids to make memories.”

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