NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — A Pasco County community is honoring the life of a teacher they lost to COVID-19 complications last year with a pumpkin patch. All the proceeds are going back to the profession she loved so much.
“The smile on her face right now is probably so big I could not even imagine,” said Madalyn Ziongas, Renee’s daughter.
Renee Dermott was a Pasco County school teacher for nearly 19 years. She loved her students, and she loved the fall season, so when she died due to COVID-19 complications last year, things were tough. Especially when her favorite season rolled around.
“She lived for the fall, and October, so Madalyn said ‘hey, can we do a pumpkin patch?’ And I was like ‘yeah,’ and last year it was so successful,” said John Dermott, Renee’s husband.
Last year they did the pumpkin patch at their family home, and they raised enough money to give a $1,000 scholarship to a local student, and $250 to the teacher of the year at a local school.
“She adored her students. Everyone was like family for her. So I mean, to know that we’re giving not only in her memory, but giving back to her second family, she would just, she would be over the moon,” said Ziongas.
This year, it moved to a bigger venue at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in New Port Richey.
They called it Gigi’s Pumpkin Patch because that’s what Renee’s grandkids called her. You can go buy pumpkins, get your face painted, play games, or even take a hayride.
“I’m really humbled over it. Yeah. I don’t really have any words for it,” said Dermott.
The Dermott family plans to do this one weekend each year, and they hope to continue growing the funds raised to increase the scholarship in Renee’s name, and give more money back to teachers of the year at different schools.
“I’m sad that she’s not here to be able to be a part of it,” said Ziongas.
They’ll be back for one more day on Sunday at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in New Port Richey from 8 am to 8 pm.
They’ll make announcements for next year as it gets closer.