Sunflowers 4 Smiles field raises over $12K for Ronald McDonald House

- The organizers were thrilled with the community support shown -

by Sylene Argent

For around a month, organizers welcomed individuals and families to the one-acre Sunflowers 4 Smiles field, located just outside of Cottam, where they were able to enjoy outdoor space and host professional photo sessions during the pandemic, all while raising funds for Windsor’s Ronald McDonald House.

  Thanks to community support, organizers were able to raise a whopping $12,608.14, which far exceeded their original goal of $5,000. Because of the massive success of the event, the organizers will forward around $9000 of the funds to the Windsor Ronald McDonald location and will forward the remaining funds to the London facility.

  “The donations just kept pouring in,” Cindy Vander Veen said, who was one of the organizers for the fundraiser. She was thrilled with the support shown to the Sunflowers 4 Smiles event. “It was unbelievable, the support. It was just amazing.”

  The field of around 31,000 sunflowers was open between August 15 and September 12, with individuals allowed to enter the field on September 13 to cut bouquets and take flowerheads to make birdseed.

  One fortunate happenstance took place when her dad, Gary Anger, tried to cutdown the field, but had trouble with his mower. A few hours later, a group showed up from Toronto, wanting to enjoy the field, and because the field was still standing, they were able to do so, Vander Veen said.

  A few nice surprises that took place in the sunflower field during the month-long fundraiser included three wedding proposals, a couple birth announcements, and a few gender reveal parties.

  Hopefully the pandemic will be over next year, Vander Veen said, noting many individuals offered to volunteer for the fundraiser’s second installment. “Which is really nice.”

  The organizers, were very appreciative of those who supported the event, and to the Anger family for allowing the use of their field to host the month-long fundraiser.  

  Organizers are already planning on hosting the event again next year, but have ideas to get the fundraiser to really blossom. There have been talks with a few couples who would like to host wedding ceremonies on the farm. Another idea may include hosting an orchestral performance from within the field. Organizers are also thinking about planting wildflowers to complement the sunflowers in the field next year.

  Catherine Nolan, the Volunteer and Community Engagement Specialist with the Windsor Ronald McDonald House, said her organization was thrilled with the outcome of the fundraiser and to have been chosen as the beneficiary.

  “I was incredibly surprised. I could not believe how much they raised,” she said.

  A portion of the funds the Windsor Ronald McDonald House received from the Sunflowers 4 Smiles fundraiser will go towards sponsoring the Lanai Room, which provides guests a place to grab fresh air. Providing funding for this space of tranquility, she said, was suiting as that is what the event offered its own guests. The other portion will go towards meals and room stays for families needing to use the facility.

  Over the course of the pandemic, the local children’s organization had great donations of pre-packages meals forwarded to support families using the facility. Staff also used many of the momentary donations for groceries for home cooked meals for the guests, Nolan said.

  Currently, the Windsor Ronald McDonald House is back to full capacity. This week, a modified day pass program will begin, which is starting to get into a new normal, Nolan added. Also this week, a handful of volunteers will start back to tackle specific tasks around the facility.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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