For the past several years, the pumpkins given to families attending LivingWell’s Halloween parties and drive-through pumpkin patches have been donated by Nancy Brackmann, a local resident, newly retired senior banking trust officer and breast cancer survivor. Brackmann and her husband, Bob, live on a working farm in St. Charles, Illinois, and through the years, she has made pumpkins her top crop.
“I was a stay-at-home mom for 11 years while Bob and I were raising our three boys and Bob was farming full time. When travel sports came into focus, which was expensive, Bob jokingly said the boys and I should plant pumpkins and sell them. I took it seriously, and the boys and I started a pumpkin patch. Every fall that we sold pumpkins, as well as gourds and cornstalk bundles, the boys got to keep half of what they earned and the other half went to their travel sports. It was a great teaching tool.”
During this time, Nancy also served on the Kane County Planning Commission and the high school booster clubs, as president of St. Charles High School boosters and then president of the St. Charles North High School boosters.
“I always managed to stay busy,” said Brackmann.
She eventually went back to work in banking and worked her way up to vice president at J.P.Morgan Chase and the past seven years as a senior trust officer at U.S. Bank in Lisle, Illinois. In 2006 while working in banking, she was also training for the Chicago Marathon with a few friends.
“I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but with the support of my friends, we trained for the race using intervals between walking and running,” said Brackmann.
In March 2006, while training for the marathon, Brackmann was diagnosed with breast cancer. One of her coworkers suggested she get treated at the Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. There, she met her surgeon, Dr. Nora Hansen.
“I trust her with my life,” said Brackmann who underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatment.
Even though Brackmann missed six weeks of training due to treatments, she and her friends finished the October 2006 Chicago Marathon—the group under five hours and Brackmann under six hours. In this same year, Brackmann visited the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center and got involved with LivingWell’s 5K Bridge Walk. She has since participated in 13 Bridge Walks and successfully raised funds for each one.
“I’ve been advocating and supporting Northwestern Medicine and LivingWell since finishing treatment 2006,” explained Brackmann who is currently in her third year as a member of the Northwestern Medicine Philanthropy Regional Advisory Council.
This year, Brackmann grew pumpkins exclusively for LivingWell’s upcoming Drive-Through Pumpkin Patch, which is open to all families impacted by cancer. (See event details below.)
“I grow uncommon varieties that you won’t find in most stores,” said Brackmann. “I try to bring in new looks so it’s not the same thing every year.”
In Brackmann’s pumpkin patch this season, you’ll find varieties like Speckled Hound, Blue Hubbard, Jarrahdale, Cinderella Pink Beauty, Rouge vif D’Etampes and Tom Fox. It is a beautiful mix of colors, shapes and sizes.
“Growing pumpkins is my way of helping and honoring those currently going through [cancer] journeys and contributing positively to the world,” said Brackmann. “Pumpkins bring smiles. Everyone loves them.”
And, we love Nancy Brackmann and her gift of growing pumpkins for LivingWell families every fall season!
LivingWell’s 2021 Drive-Through Pumpkin Patch event is scheduled on Wednesday, October 20, from 4:30 – 6:00 pm, in the LivingWell Geneva parking lot at 442 Williamsburg Avenue. To reserve a pumpkin for your family, please complete LivingWell’s New Participant Form (if you haven’t already) and email firstname.lastname@example.org, including your first and last name and “Pumpkin Patch” in your subject line.