Sunflowers for a Wish
A field of sunflowers is a Stratford mom’s way of saying thanks to the Children’s Wish Foundation.
In April 2012, 14-year-old Callum Russell MacLean was halfway through his treatment for a soft tissue cancer in his hand. An SUV pulled into the driveway with a boat on the roof rack. Callum’s wish had arrived.
“It was truly the happiest I have seen him since his diagnosis in September,” his mother, Nancy Russell, wrote at the time, on a blog chronicling Callum’s journey. The caption of the blog said it all : The Happiest Kid on P.E.I.
Beth Corney-Gauthier is the executive director of Children’s Wish on P.E.I. She works to raise the money for the wishes. But she also has the joy of seeing them delivered.
Callum loved to sail so a sailboat was the obvious choice for his Children’s Wish. He could have picked a sailing trip. But the idea of owning his own Laser XD was even more exciting.
“The process of applying for a wish is easy,” explains Callum’s mom, Nancy Russell. “And when you are already going through so much with your child’s illness, easy is good.”
Callum’s pediatrician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital helped with the application. And within weeks, the process of finding Callum a boat was in full swing.
“We met with Beth and Julie at Children’s Wish who instantly got up to speed on sailboats and what Callum was looking for,” Russell continues. “It was fun to watch Callum explaining to Beth about the boat and all the specifications. She learned a lot really fast.”
Angus Buchanan of North Sails, a sailing store in Halifax, also jumped in to help. He called the Laser factory personally to place the order – and even travelled to the U.S. himself to pick up the boat and deliver it to Callum on P.E.I.
“Getting the boat, with four months left in his treatment, was a great motivator for Callum—and for all of us,” says Nancy Russell. “We couldn’t wait to see Callum finish his treatment and get to try out his Laser for the first time.”
Callum had been a junior sailor at the Charlottetown Yacht Club since he was 8. And so that’s where he headed on June 25, the day before his Grade 9 graduation. Still in treatment, he was determined to get his boat on the water.
“He was still very tired from the chemo,” recalls Russell. “But the pride of owning that boat carried him through any pain and fatigue.”
The video and photos from that day show a young man doing what he did best – out on the water where he grew up.
“It was magical,” says his mother. “Not perfect. But it was his boat. That was all that mattered. And I will never forget watching him sail it that day.”
Sadly, Callum Russell MacLean only got to sail his boat twice. He returned to Grade 10 in the fall of 2012, and the Laser went into storage with hopes for many more sails in the future. But the cancer returned in February 2013 and Callum passed away in April.
Now Nancy Russell wants to raise awareness and money for the organization that gave Callum motivation – and some good memories – amidst days and weeks of time in hospital being treated and harsh side-effects.
“I want to thank Children’s Wish for the hope that they gave us with that sailboat,” explains Russell. “And that’s why the money raised from this year’s field of sunflowers will be donated to them.”
Last year, Russell grew a field of sunflowers in Callum’s honour for the first time. The project was suggested by Della Wood, of Wood’s Farms. She remembered that Callum’s mom had encouraged his friends to plant sunflower seeds in his memory, because they bloom around the time of his birthday. And so, Wood contacted Russell with the idea of growing a field of sunflowers for Callum, with the proceeds going to charity. Last year, the money raised was sent to Kenya through Farmers Helping Farmers, where three classrooms were built in Callum’s honour.
“I love the sunflowers because for me they have become a symbol of Callum for many people in the community,” says Russell. “Even better, that we can grow them and sell them and put the money towards something that reflects his courage and kindness.”
Callum’s Sunflower Sale for Children’s Wish will take place Saturday September 19th, between 9 :00 a.m. and 2 :00 p.m. at Wood’s Farms, 177 Georgetown Road in Tea Hill.
After that, you can drive out to Wood’s Farms during regular business hours and pick your own. (closed on Sundays) The sunflowers will also be available for sale at Now n Zen Coffee Shop on Glen Stewart Drive in Stratford, until they run out.
They are $5 for 5 blooms.
The Kenya Youth Tour will also be doing a bake sale on Saturday September 19th with the money raised going towards purchasing books for a school in Kenya.
For more information, you can contact The Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada | Prince Edward Island Chapter | 375 University Avenue, Unit 7 | Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island | C1A 4N4
Della at Wood’s Farms at 902-569-4215
Nancy Russell at 902-569-1771
“We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.”