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VA hospital in Leeds raises money, challenges gravity with ancient technology, wagon full of pumpkins

  • Lorrain Brisson, left, coordinator for the Horticulture Therapy program at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, launches a pumpkin using a trebuchet, "a medieval engine for hurling missiles with great force."  For a donation of $5 on Wednesday, visitors could purchase a pumpkin, write a dedication on it and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Lorrain Brisson, left, coordinator for the Horticulture Therapy program at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, launches a pumpkin using a trebuchet, "a medieval engine for hurling missiles with great force." For a donation of $5 on Wednesday, visitors could purchase a pumpkin, write a dedication on it and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lorrain Brisson, coordinator for the Horticulture Therapy program at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, places a pumpkin to be launched on a trebuchet during the ""Punkin' Chunkin'" event at the Northampton Campus on Wednesday. For a donation of $5, visitors could purchase a pumpkin, write a dedication on it and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Lorrain Brisson, coordinator for the Horticulture Therapy program at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, places a pumpkin to be launched on a trebuchet during the ""Punkin' Chunkin'" event at the Northampton Campus on Wednesday. For a donation of $5, visitors could purchase a pumpkin, write a dedication on it and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Beth Graziadei, an employee at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, launches a pumpkin using a trebuchet, "a medieval engine for hurling missiles with great force."  For a donation of $5 on Wednesday, visitors could purchase a pumpkin, write a dedication on it and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Beth Graziadei, an employee at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, launches a pumpkin using a trebuchet, "a medieval engine for hurling missiles with great force." For a donation of $5 on Wednesday, visitors could purchase a pumpkin, write a dedication on it and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Beth Graziadei, an employee at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, writes a dedication to a co-worker on a pumpkin to be launched by a trebuchet, seen in background, on Wednesday. For a donation of $5, visitors could purchase a pumpkin and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Prizes were awarded for the longest distance and closest to the bulls-eye targets which were adorned with pictures of VA senior staff. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Beth Graziadei, an employee at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, writes a dedication to a co-worker on a pumpkin to be launched by a trebuchet, seen in background, on Wednesday. For a donation of $5, visitors could purchase a pumpkin and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Prizes were awarded for the longest distance and closest to the bulls-eye targets which were adorned with pictures of VA senior staff. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Volunteer Jon Labore measures the distance of a pumpkin tossed during a "Punkin' Chunkin'" event at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds on Wednesday. For a donation of $5, visitors could purchase a pumpkin and send it flying with a trebuchet, or catapult, crafted by veterans in the Horticulture Therapy program. Prizes were awarded for the longest distance and closest to one of four bulls-eye targets adorned with the pictures of VA senior staff. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Volunteer Jon Labore measures the distance of a pumpkin tossed during a "Punkin' Chunkin'" event at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds on Wednesday. For a donation of $5, visitors could purchase a pumpkin and send it flying with a trebuchet, or catapult, crafted by veterans in the Horticulture Therapy program. Prizes were awarded for the longest distance and closest to one of four bulls-eye targets adorned with the pictures of VA senior staff. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lorrain Brisson, left, coordinator for the Horticulture Therapy program at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, launches a pumpkin using a trebuchet, "a medieval engine for hurling missiles with great force."  For a donation of $5 on Wednesday, visitors could purchase a pumpkin, write a dedication on it and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Lorrain Brisson, coordinator for the Horticulture Therapy program at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, places a pumpkin to be launched on a trebuchet during the ""Punkin' Chunkin'" event at the Northampton Campus on Wednesday. For a donation of $5, visitors could purchase a pumpkin, write a dedication on it and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Beth Graziadei, an employee at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, launches a pumpkin using a trebuchet, "a medieval engine for hurling missiles with great force."  For a donation of $5 on Wednesday, visitors could purchase a pumpkin, write a dedication on it and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Beth Graziadei, an employee at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds, writes a dedication to a co-worker on a pumpkin to be launched by a trebuchet, seen in background, on Wednesday. For a donation of $5, visitors could purchase a pumpkin and send it flying with the catapult crafted by veterans in the program. Prizes were awarded for the longest distance and closest to the bulls-eye targets which were adorned with pictures of VA senior staff. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Volunteer Jon Labore measures the distance of a pumpkin tossed during a "Punkin' Chunkin'" event at the Veterans Affairs Central Western Massachusetts Health Care System (formerly VA Medical Center) in Leeds on Wednesday. For a donation of $5, visitors could purchase a pumpkin and send it flying with a trebuchet, or catapult, crafted by veterans in the Horticulture Therapy program. Prizes were awarded for the longest distance and closest to one of four bulls-eye targets adorned with the pictures of VA senior staff. Proceeds benefit the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

“But not one as much fun,” said Lorraine Brisson.

Brisson, coordinator of the horticultural therapy program at the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System in Leeds, said the opportunity to use ancient technology to squash some squash was all part of the VA’s annual charity drive.

Amanda Pelis, co-chairwoman of the VA’s Combined Federal Campaign, which collects donations from federal employees during a six-week period and distributes those funds to various charities, said that as of Tuesday afternoon the inaugural event raised a little over $300.

People had fun and were generous, Brisson said, but the sudden onset of cold weather, including some of the season’s first snowflakes, may have kept people, including many of the veterans, inside.

“We want to do it earlier next year,” Brisson said.

Brisson said the 10-foot-tall device was built by members of the program over a three-month period after she saw a larger-scale trebuchet being demonstrated on television and thought building one would be a fun and interesting project.

“I had to keep a carpenter busy last winter,” Brisson said.

VA staff and clients donated $5 each for the chance to lock and load a pumpkin of their choice into the trebuchet’s sling, pull the pin and fire away at wooden targets with pictures of some of the VA’s senior management staff in the bull’s-eye.

This trebuchet has a 150-pound counter-weight, held in place by a large pin with a rope attached. When the pin is yanked out, the weight drops, and that momentum pulls the arm around and whips the sling and whatever’s in it onward and upward.

Best advice is to be somewhere behind the trebuchet when this happens.

By about 2 p.m. Wednesday, the top distance was 70 feet, the average distance from all the launches was about 55 feet, Pelis said.

Brisson said she and the team that built the trebuchet learned some lessons from its first real-world test and will make adjustments accordingly.

For example, she said, the leather sling is attached to the throwing arm by vinyl ropes, and those ropes stretch, affecting the trajectory and distance of the missile. Brisson said a substitute for the ropes will be sought for the trebuchet’s next outing.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said.

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