WINDSOR, ONT -- About 31,000 sunflowers fill one acre on a farm near Cottam where nature lovers, photographers and anyone interested can come and take pictures in exchange for a donation to the Ronald McDonald House.

“We have a few people come out every morning just to take pictures of the different birds and butterflies in the field,” said Ashley Rocheleau who planted the flowers with her family at her grandparent’s farm.

“We’ve had some proposals, some maternity shots. We’ve even had a one-year-old birthday cake smash! So whatever you wish to do, it’s a good backdrop to have.”

The inspiration came from a similar fundraiser near Forest, Ont. in honour of Max Rombouts, a two-year-old who lost his fight with leukemia last year.

Rocheleau says her family fortunately has not had any personal ties to the Ronald McDonald House, but knows people who have.

“Sunflowers are beautiful, everyone loves them and we actually don’t have a farm like this around here that we know of so we just thought we’d take advantage of that and just spread some joy with some beautiful flowers.”

Sunflowers for Smiles

Fundraising events for Ronald McDonald House have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tracey Keighley-Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of Ronald McDonald House SWO tells CTV News the organization expects a “significant” shortfall in funding this year, praising the Sunflowers 4 Smiles initiative.

“It’s wonderful to see a community wrap themselves around us, so that we can wrap ourselves around a family and support them,” said Keighley-Clarke.

Rocheleau says about $3,500 has been raised so far, with a goal of collecting $5,000.

The Sunflowers 4 Smiles field is open daily, weather permitting, from 10 am – 7 pm, at 45 Concession 10 in Cottam, until Sept. 5.

Pets are not allowed. Visitors are asked to follow provincial COVID-19 guidelines.

Professional photographers are able to book appointments.