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Sunflowers 4 Smiles field to be available for photos, quick tours

- proceeds will go to Windsor’s Ronald McDonald House -


by Sylene Argent

Starting August 15, visitors can enjoy a one-acre sunflower field in Cottam, in exchange for a donation to Windsor’s Ronald McDonald House.

  Nature lovers will be able to enjoy the scenery, and even bring along a camera to take some photos of themselves or of the colourful flowers.

  From August 15-September 5, the sunflower field will be open daily, from 10 am – 7 pm, at 45 Concession 10 in Cottam.

  The field of around 31,000 sunflowers, which is situated on the farm of Betty and Gary Anger, will offer a public and appointment path. Professional photographers can book a time, while members of the public can head to the farm during hours of operation. Only two groups will be allowed in a path at a time, and are asked to take a maximum of 20-minutes to enjoy the sunflower field.

  Cindy Vander Veen, one of the organizers, said her family wanted to give area individuals an opportunity to enjoy outdoor space, while raising funds for a worthy charity. Visitors will be asked to adhere to provincial guidelines as it relates to COVID-19.

  Rules for the sunflower field include not attending if one is not feeling well. If attending the public viewing area, only one individual is allowed to stand in line; wash hands as much as possible; and socially distance at 6-feet.

  In addition, the organizers will take precautions to sanitize high traffic areas.  

  Last year, Vander Veen saw a story about a man, who created a sunflower field in memory of his child-aged neighbour, who has passed away from cancer. She asked her mom and dad if they would be interested in hosting such a fundraiser, and got the nod.

  The family chose Ronald McDonald House as its beneficiary because they wanted to support an organization that offers programs and facilities to families of youth who are undergoing treatments or battling medical conditions.

  Vander Veen’s niece, Ashley Rocheleau, noted that fortunately, her family has not had any personal ties to the Ronald McDonald House, but has had a few friends who have. “Every person has had nothing but wonderful things to say about that organization.”

  In addition to being a fundraiser, the organizers are hoping the sunflower field will be uplifting to those who attend.

  Rocheleau said sunflowers are not abundant in the area and they are her favourite flower, so much so, she used them in her wedding bouquet. She and her husband used to drive for an hour or two to go find sunflower fields, so she is excited to offer this scenery to the community.

  Vander Veen hopes this multiple-week fundraiser will raise $5000 for the Ronald McDonald House, which Rocheleau believes, and hopes, will be obtainable.   

  Information about costs to enjoy the sunflower field, and other information – such as items that will be for sale onsite, can be viewed on the Sunflowers 4 Smiles Facebook page. Feedback to date, about the idea, has been positive, the organizers noted.

Catherine Nolan, the Volunteer and Community Engagement Specialist with the Windsor Ronald McDonald House, said she thinks the sunflower field fundraiser is fantastic.

  “We always love the support, but especially during this time,” Nolan said of COVID-19. “It is just incredible.”

Many of the Ronald McDonald House events and fundraisers had to be cancelled this year, due to the pandemic, and that has changed the way the organization runs programs and the way it is able to support its families. “Something like this is really going to help us to be able to continue to support our families,” Nolan said.

  Recently, the Ronald McDonald House put out a call for gift cards to be able to buy food for the families using the facilities. The proceeds from the sunflower field fundraiser, Nolan added, will also likely go towards helping feed those families. Typically, volunteer groups would be in four or five nights a week to cook for the families using the facilities, which has been put on hiatus, due to the Coronavirus. The funds will also go towards assisting families in other ways, as needed.

  Nolan noted representatives of the Ronald McDonald House are very grateful to have been selected as the beneficiary of this unique fundraiser.   

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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