Buttonwood Farms hosts annual 'Sunflowers for Wishes'

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Jul. 22, 2013
Myla, 2, of Milford, enjoys her bouquet of sunflowers.
Myla, 2, of Milford, enjoys her bouquet of sunflowers.

The fields at Buttonwood Farm are once again alive with vivid green and brilliant yellow, as the farm’s annual Sunflowers for Wishes display draws families, photographers and nature-lovers to spend some time among the flowers for a worthy cause. The sunflowers are the obvious draw, but many of the visitors on the event’s opening weekend were looking a little closer for other natural wonders.

Stephen Conlon, of Johnston, R.I., was scanning the leaves for a small grasshopper-like insect he’d seen moments before – perhaps a katydid, the same color as the leaves. Chiara, 9, said she’d seen a wooly bear caterpillar.

“It’s spectacular - not just the flowers, but the insects, too,” said Terry Conlon. “There’s a lot more to see here if you’re looking closely. It’s a very diverse landscape.”

Bobby Gaudette, of Smithfield, R.I., couldn’t agree more. He was closely examining the honeybees crawling across the blossoms, explaining to wary children that they wouldn’t sting. “I like bees because they pollinate my food,” he said. “Without bees, you really don’t have a food system.”

The annual event is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, said Michael Domenick, community relations manager for Make-a-Wish Foundation of Connecticut. The organization, which provides special trips, experiences or other wishes for seriously ill children, has received more than $700,000 from the Buttonwoods event over the past decade, he said. “I don’t know if the Buttons [the family that owns the farm] had any idea how big this was going to get,” he said.

Last year’s event set a fundraising record of $110,000, he said. At an average cost of $8,500, “we [granted] 163 wishes last year in the state, and this event provided funds for more than 10 of them,” he said. “It’s a pretty amazing event, and it’s such a great fit – such a family event. A lot of our wish families are coming out to the event and even volunteering at the gazebo.”

According to the organization’s website, kids’ wishes can range from meeting a celebrity to having a Sweet Sixteen birthday party, to taking a special trip.

Under the gazebo’s shade, buckets of fresh-picked sunflowers awaited purchase, along with commemorative t-shirts and note cards. Proceeds from the sales of all the gazebo items, as well as tickets for hayrides or “cow train” rides through the flowering fields, go directly to Make-a-Wish. Nearby, long lines of people waiting for a taste of the farm’s famous ice cream – especially its sunflower flavor - snaked through the parking lot.

The Sunflowers for Wishes display runs through July 28 from 11 a.m. until dusk. Buttonwood Farms Ice Cream Stand is located at 471 Shetucket Turnpike, at the junction of Routes 165 and 201 in Griswold.


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