Over the next few weeks a blanket of yellow will cover 13 acres in front of Sauk Prairie Hospital, where thousands of sunflowers have been planted. This is the third year members of the local Heroes for Honor group has organized the planting as a benefit for Badger Honor Flight. A donation box is out by the sunflowers as a free-will offering when people visit the flowers, to take a few pictures, or take a few home.
“We didn’t really know what we were doing the first year we had the sunflowers,” said Heroes for Honor member Fritz Wyttenbach. “We try a lot of things and when we do, we aren’t always sure how they are going to turn out.”
Wyttenbach said the group approached the hospital administration, knowing they had a lot of land. After receiving the go-ahead, the group secured donated seed and got the planting and cultivating donated as well.
“We didn’t know when they’d bloom or if they’d bloom,” Stan Theis, Heroes for Honor member.
“But it turned out way better than we expected,” Wyttenbach said.
Over the past two plantings, Heroes for Honor was able to collect $7,500 for Badger Honor Flight.
Theis and friend Jim Ziegler planted the sunflowers, and Jerry Keller sprayed them after planting.
“From the time we plant them until the time they blossom it is 60 days,” Wyttenbach said.
“They are very tolerant,” Theis said, noting the sunflowers will hopefully turn out OK with the scorching heat and lack of adequate moisture.
Along with the sunflowers, the group decided to plant red, white, and blue petunias in the shape of an American flag on the hospital property. The 5,000 petunias got their start in a greenhouse on Wyttenbach’s property when they were only an inch tall, Theis said.
“The purpose of the flag is a memorial for the vets and to show some sort of respect for what they’ve done and what they’ve given us,” Theis said.
Wyttenbach said he’s noticed many groups have taken family photos in the sunflower field in the past, and even more have had senior photos there as well, which Wyttenbach said was the point of making them available to the public.
“The hospital has been very supportive of our efforts,” Wyttenbach said. “They have been great to work with.”
Sauk Prairie Healthcare chief executive officer Shawn Lerch said Sauk Prairie Healthcare is a community hospital and believes in working with local partners and supporting local causes.
“As an organization we really try to support causes related to health and wellness,” Lerch said. “Our local heroes have given so much. Veterans build long-lasting relationships with those on the Honor Flight and we recognize the mental health around it and know how appreciative they are.”
Lerch said the burst of color makes the staff, patients, and visitors to the hospital happy as well.
“It’s been a great thing for our team here; seeing the golden field of sunflowers,” Lerch said. “We’ve noticed how uplifting it is for patients and visitors, so there’s that wellness factor. Our campus was truly designed to support health and wellness and this adds to it.”