It’s a fall tradition…for years, legions of families, scout troops and school groups have been making their way to the Country Lane Tree Farm in Genoa to enjoy some fall fun, including the giant corn maze.
This year, visitors to the farm, located at 3525 N Bolander Rd., can not only test their navigational skills in the maze, but they can also help a local organization in its mission to help kids facing the rigors of cancer treatment.
For 2012, the Bowlander family has carved “www.comfort-hearts.com” in the cornfield in the hopes of raising awareness about and funds for Elias Adin’s Comforting Hearts, a Perrysburg-based 501 (c) (a) non-profit organization that donates care packages to families of children being treated for cancer.
Comforting Hearts was started in 2011 by Kele Pallitta in tribute to her 7-month old son who passed away in 2008 from a brain tumor. Little Elias was always a healthy, happy baby until he developed severe flu-like symptoms. His parents took him to the emergency room, where he died that same day. Kele wanted to find a way to turn their tragedy into a way to comfort other families and children battling cancer – something Elias didn’t have a chance to do.
The charity donates care packages filled with books, crayons, games, etc. to the oncology units at Mercy Children’s Hospital and ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital, and soon to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. It is also starting a scholarship fund for local medical students.
It was Comforting Hearts’ board president Jenee Carpenter who approached the Country Lane farm about holding a fundraiser for the organization.
“Janee has been coming here since she was very little to cut Christmas trees,” said Melissa Bowlander, whose family owns the farm. “Now she brings her kids and comes with their Scout troops.
“Back in the spring, she contacted me to see if we would be interested in holding a fundraiser for a very special charity,” Melissa said. “I hadn’t heard of it, but when I looked at their website, it just gave me goose bumps. I thought, ‘I want to help kickstart this charity.’
“When I met Kele, I was so impressed at her determination to turn her pain and anguish into something so wonderful – something that makes people know that they’re loved and that people are praying for them and thinking of them in a time when they really need hope,” Melissa said.
At the time, the Bowlanders were just starting to discuss the designs for this year’s maze.
“We were sitting at the dinner table and I had the request from Jenee in the back of my mind,” Melissa said. “I suggested we take the maze and make it work for them somehow.
The challenge was,”Elias Adin’s Comforting Hearts” was just too many words and would be difficult to make fit. But the organization’s web address just might work nicely.
“It’s like it all somehow came together,” Melissa said. “September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and we open the maze Sept. 29.”
So Melissa drew the design, which her son John tweaked a bit before creating the GPS software that would help him carve the design into the rows of cornstalks.
“When you’re on the ground, it doesn’t really matter what the design is – it’s fun to navigate through and finish the game inside,” Melissa said. “We figured the design would raise awareness and get people talking.
“And the families will have the added joy of knowing they’re helping this charity,” she said.
How to help
On Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Comforting Hearts will hold a Family Fall Festival at Country Lane Tree Farm.
The $10 ticket, available for purchase via PayPal at www.comfort-hearts.com or at the farm, includes visiting the farm’s many animals, an indoor straw maze with slides, a Dueling Corn Cannon Shoot, the corn maze, a hayride to the pumpkin patch to pick a small pumpkin, pony and Barrel Train Ride (kids only) and a Sno-Kone or cotton candy. Admission is free for children under 2.
Net proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Comforting Hearts.
Melissa noted that tickets purchased at the Comforting Hearts website may be used not just the day of the festival, but throughout the season, which includes Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 28.
In addition, donations for the charity will be accepted at the tree farm throughout the fall season.
Besides cash and gift cards, the organization welcomes donations of various items to be included in care packages including hand-held games, Sudoku books, sketch pads, colored pencils, stickers, notebooks, colored duct tape, brain teasers, ChapStick, playing cards, individually-wrapped snacks, journals, coloring books and crayons, pens and more. A complete list is on their website.
For directions or more information about Country Lane Tree Farm, visit www.countrylanetreefarm.com or call 419-461-1298.