Maria’s Field of Hope, a sunflower field dedicated to young Maria McNamara, has recently become a popular spot for visitors to go and enjoy the beautiful blooming flowers while supporting glioma research.
Young Maria McNamara was diagnosed with a brain illness known as diffused intrinsic pontine glioma on Apr. 1, 2006. According to prayersformaria.org, a glioma is a brain tumor that forms in the glial cells of the central nervous system. Gliomas are among the worst types of brain tumors, and even if they are removed from the brain, portions of the tumor often remain and lead to the relapse of cancer.
Over 97 percent of young people diagnosed with diffused pontine gliomas, the type young Maria possessed, die within three years. Maria died just over a year after being diagnosed, at seven-years-old, on July 14, 2007. Megan McNamara said of her daughter, “Through it all, Maria showed tremendous character and dignity. Her strength, her courage and most of all, her faith, left marks on our souls that have changed us forever.”
Presently, research for childhood glioma is extremely underfunded. Despite nearly half of all brain tumors belonging to the glioma family, these tumors are the second highest cause of cancerous deaths among children. This forces families, like Maria’s, to stand by and hopelessly watch their delicate, blameless child’s body and mind slowly deteriorate from this horrible sickness.
Throughout Maria’s battle with cancer, she always thought of other children who were going through the same battle she was. Maria’s mother, Megan, said “She never thought of herself. Instead she chose to pray for all children suffering from cancer and their families. She prayed that doctors would find a way to help them.”
Ed and Megan, Maria’s parents, started the organization Prayers from Maria- Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation, that is dedicated to funding worldwide research into the causes, prevention, treatments and an eventual cure for gliomas.
The field of sunflowers that started for Maria in 2014, showed off their bloom during the Blossoming Celebration of Life Sept. 4 in Avon. The field now goes far beyond that, and also recognizing other children who have died from cancer and those who are battling it.
Ed McNamara, Maria’s father, said the celebration could be a yearly event as it seemed to be a big hit.
“Avon has been awesome,” he said. “They’re just so wonderful to work with, even on short notice. We have such a great little venue here, why don’t we have a celebration; let the people come out and enjoy it.” McNamara said prayer cards are to be put on a sunflower to anyone that someone is praying for. He said there are well over 1,000 in the sunflower field.
The money raised goes to pediatric glioma research. Any expenses necessary to operate the foundation are completely acquired through fundraising. To date, the foundation has awarded close to half a million dollars in grants to this desperately needed research.
The field of sunflowers that stretches between Jaycox Rd. and Rt. 83 along I-90 in Avon adds some brilliant color to the roadside for commuters.
Her mother added, “ We had about 100 people planting sunflower seeds in the fields,” she said. “But really it was a farmer named John Betzel who did all the work, planting 25,000 sunflower seeds that were donated by the Zurich Company of Independence.” She said a member of the board came up with the idea of a sea of flowers and contacted the Jacobs real estate group about using their land along I-90. She said the Jacobs officials were quick to agree and help out.
The public is invited to walk through the sunflowers from 4 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6 as a show of support for the fight against cancer. Prizes will be given for the best pictures of the flowers. People who are interested in seeing the field are asked to enter the field from Jaycox Road off Chester Road.
Editor’s note: Information from Cleveland.com, The Morning Journal and Prayersformaria.org was used in this report.