Driving along I-90 W in Avon, Ohio, there is a massive field of gorgeous, golden sunflowers growing along side of the interstate, followed by a sign that says “Plant the Seeds, Grow the Movement” causing one to go, hmmm, what is that all about? It is Maria’s Field of Hope.

This field of hope was inspired by seven year old Maria McNamara, who often prayed for her fellow patients at St. Jude while she was there fighting childhood glioma brain cancer, the deadliest of all childhood brain cancers. Her prayers then, inspired the movement today. The flowers are a symbol of hope for all children battling cancer and in memory of those who have died.

Their mission statement is “The movement is to honor childhood cancer patients with the attention they deserve by reversing the tragic lack of funding and promoting the most meaningful brain cancer research for kids.” The field of hope is to promote awareness of childhood cancer, along with honoring those who lost the battle, while supporting those who are in the fight.

Thirty-four acres of over a million seeds were planted in July, with great expectations of them blooming in September for National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The field is now in bloom and it is estimated that they will bloom for about two weeks. Besides the sunflowers, there are markers along the paths honoring those children in Ohio who have lost their battle with the disease. Garrettsville’s own Melana Matson, who lost her battle in 2009, when she was just 8 years old is honored there. Had she not been tragically struck by this disease, Melana would have been a member of J.A. Garfield High School’s Class of 2018.

When one arrives, one can stroll the meandering paths through the 35 acres while remembering those who were lost, praying for those in the battle and even snap a few pictures along the way. They will find friendly volunteers at Maria’s Store to help them find a specific marker or tell them more about the field. Maria’s Store sells sunflower inspired t-shirts, merchandise and souvenirs, with all proceeds benefitting childhood cancer research. The store is open daily from 10 am – 8pm. Everyone who stops at the store leaves with a package of sunflowers to plant for next year to help “grow the movement.”

Field access is located at 1500 Jaycox Road, off of Chester Road in Avon, Ohio.

More information about Maria’s Field of Hope can be found at www.PrayersFromMaria.org

Prayers from Maria is the “Umbrella” organization that local group Friends of Melana operates under. Both groups hold fundraisers throughout the year to help secure grants for research, with goal of finding a cure.