What does a man who has donated over $500,000 to Make-A-Wish® Connecticut look like?
Meet Duane Button, a dairy and cattle farmer in Griswold, Connecticut. Since 2004, Duane and his family have dedicated acres of their farm to growing sunflowers, which they sell for $5 a bouquet, with 100% of the proceeds going to Make-A-Wish® Connecticut. That’s right – in just eight years, Buttonwood Farms has raised over half a million dollars by selling sunflowers, note cards, t-shirts and hayrides.
There’s no big-ticket gala with heavy hitters writing big checks, just nine days of harvesting sunflowers early each morning to keep up with the demand of visitors who flock from across New England to see Buttonwood Farm’s happy fields of sunflowers each summer. This year, 450,000 sunflowers are expected to bloom across 15 acres.
As a long-time wish granting volunteer and board member, this was my 4th visit to Sunflowers for Wishes. On Saturday, Ryan and I volunteered in the gazebo, selling bouquets, t-shirts and cards. We met a few Make-A-Wish families; happy kids with huge smiles, drippy ice cream cones and armfuls of the “biggest” sunflower bouquets ever.
Here’s what I learned backstage: sunflowers are heavy. These buckets, which are loaded in the fields and then onto trucks headed to the gazebo, must each weigh 40 pounds. Button and his crew of volunteers work unbelievably hard.
I also learned a three hour volunteering shift is a bit much for a six year old. Hour one went well: Ryan loved collecting the money and recording sunflower sales and was equally enthusiastic about tearing plastic bags from the roll and opening them up for each each bouquet. Rounding out the first hour – white chocolate chip ice cream from Buttonwood’s heavenly dairy bar.
Midway through hour two, Ryan discovered a one pound bag of rubber bands in the gazebo and one of the seasoned farm staffers showed him how to launch the bands with his fingers. Just in time for my sister and brother-in-law to arrive and whisk him away to the fields.
Dean (a.k.a. Mr. Madly) found some seeds for us to try to plant.
And helped Ryan commandeer the tractor for the cow train.
We all took a hayride through the working farm where we fed the cows and took lots of pictures.
Ryan thought the sky looked awesome, and called this shot “Blue/White, Green and Yellow.”
Ry searched hard for flowers that were facing him. He guessed the flowers all faced one way because of how the seeds were planted, in the direction the point of the seed faced when it was planted. Not a bad guess, but one of the farmers set him straight with the ‘ol “they face the sun” theory.
Then we returned to the ice cream stand, with dozens of fabulous flavors, including for a limited time:
Sunflowers for Wishes runs this year from July 21st through the 29th, 11 am to dusk. When we left at 7 pm on Day 1 of the event, over 1,000 bouquets had been sold.
Within driving distance to RI beaches or the Connecticut casinos? Make the trip to Buttonwood Farms! For the sunflowers, for the ice cream, for the photographs, for the families of Make-A-Wish® Connecticut and to celebrate individuals like the Buttons who create joy and happiness in our sometimes very dark world.
Make-A-Wish® Connecticut grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. To donate, volunteer or find out more, please visit CT.wish.org.
I am very excited that our visit to Buttonwood Farms will be featured on Out and About Mom on Wednesday. Stay tuned and check it out.