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Tomato War warriors head into battle to contribute to good causes

WASSAIC — Deep in the hamlet of Wassaic, happiness was only a tomato’s throw away at the fifth annual Tomato War, which benefited two great causes, was held on Saturday, Sept. 11.

Running from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., this year’s Tomato War was held  on a large field at 365 Tower Hill Road. The Tomato War raised money to benefit the students and schools of Kulen Outreach, the educational organization that fundraiser’s organizers, Philip Mactaggart and Gordon Elliott, established in Northern Cambodia to help the less-fortunate rural communities gain access to a full education. 

One goal for this year’s Tomato War was to raise funds for the second and final phase of the Siem Reap Campus, which will allow them to reach their ultimate goal of housing 100 students there. Another goal was to raise money for the Scholarship Fund of the Millbrook Early Childhood Education Center (MECEC), closer to home.

“Our goal is to provide high-quality early childhood education to everybody in the Millbrook community and the surrounding areas,” MECEC Executive Director Anne Garcia said.

Asked about partnering with the Tomato War’s organizers to help both MECEC and Kulen Outreach, Garcia said, “I think the idea behind this event is to think globally, act globally,” adding that along with reaching out to meaningful causes on a global scale, it’s equally important to help in one’s own backyard.

The scent of a ripe summer’s afternoon — in this case, tomatoes warming under the sun — could be detected from the fields the moment Tomato War guests parked their cars. Soon enough, the juicy red ammo could be spotted — boxes and baskets of ripe tomatoes ready to be thrown at opponents in a modified game of Capture the Flag were sitting ready for the taking. Throughout the day, remnants of the day’s battles could be found scattered on the grass in a pulpy mess.

“Everyone’s turned up,” said Philip Mactaggart with pride. “We sold out this year, and we’ve got beautiful weather. Tini did a beautiful job organizing; we’ve got amazing food coming and we’ve got amazing auction items.”

Checking in at 10:30 a.m., participants received a black or red satchel (depending on their team) and a commemorative crisp white T-shirt, most of which were quickly splattered bright red with signs of the fierce battle. 

With the Children’s Tomato War scheduled at 11 a.m. and the Adult’s Tomato War at noon, there were plenty of activities to keep guests entertained. There was face painting and a cow-shaped bounce house for children and a Bloody Mary bar and hors d’oeuvres for adults.

At 1 p.m., guests sat down for an exquisitely catered lunch cooked on tables beautifully prepared by Tini Cochran. They were also invited to partake in a live auction featuring a lineup of prizes, including two nights in Napa Valley; seven nights in Corfu, Greece; and the Royal Enclosure at the 2022 Royal Ascot race week, a prize Cochran assuredly said cannot be bought.

One hundred percent of the proceeds raised from the Tomato Wars and the live auction will benefit both the Kulen Outreach Siem Reap Campus Phase II and the MECEC Scholarship Fund. 

To see photos of Kulen Outreach’s Siem Reap Campus, go to www.tomatowarmillbrook.com.

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