A familiar pumpkin patch is back in Franklin, but without a familiar face. The Cooper Trooper Foundation Pumpkin Patch is up-and-running without its co-founder, Rod Cook.
Cook and his wife, Missy, started the Cooper Trooper Foundation five years ago, when their son, Cooper, was diagnosed with cancer.
Cooper's illness opened their eyes to his needs and the needs of his two older brothers.
The Pumpkin Patch, located at the corner of Mallory Lane and Cool Springs Boulevard, allows the Foundation to support the fight against childhood cancer through the sale of the organic fall décor.
The Foundation provides Courage Kits to siblings of those with a cancer diagnosis. The kits include a t-shirt, a courage medal, a stuffed animal, and a book that talks about the common emotions that arise when a sibling is diagnosed.
Proceeds from pumpkins sales also go toward the Foundation's Pediatric Cancer Research Endowment Fund set up at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Over the years, the Cook family has relied on partnerships, sponsorships and volunteers to help The Pumpkin Patch grow and to fulfill their five-year commitment to raise $100,000 for the endowment.
On Saturday, more than 200 local athletes helped unload 16,000 festive gourds for this year's sales.
"It's really neat to see them on a Saturday morning after they've rivaled and played each other in football on Friday night, and they get together and they get in that truck and work so hard to unload these pumpkins together," Missy said.
After the work was done, the teams posed for pictures with Cooper, who is now five years old and cancer-free.
In the last four years, The Pumpkin Patch has become a familiar one; but this year, a familiar face is missing. Rod Cook died unexpectedly in July.
"It's definitely hard without him," Missy told News 2. "This is something we've always done together. It feels really difficult not having him here."
T-shirts worn by volunteers bear Rod's initials to honor him and remind customers of his tireless work for the foundation.
"We all are stepping up, because we don't want Missy to ever feel alone in this," said volunteer Susan Charest.
While the Cook family continues to cope with their loss, they're grateful for the continued support for the cause close to Rod's heart.
"This was his passion and his vision to see these families get help, so I think everyone has come alongside us and just really wanted to see that through," Missy said.
The Cooper Trooper Foundation Pumpkin Patch is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pumpkins will be sold through October 31.