Staffers at Old MacDonald Kennels (OMK) in Ponoka County have launched their seventh annual Sunflower Fundraiser.
As the name suggests, it all connects to the charm and beauty of the sunflower, said Brandi Thomson, Old MacDonald’s marketing manager.
“There are three ‘hearts’ of sunflowers in a pattern which are surrounded by a cornfield, and there are trails throughout it.”
The fundraiser kicked off on July 19 and will run for a couple of weeks while the sunflowers are at their prime. Hours are from 1 to 10 p.m. seven days a week, and field admission is $5 per person (kids 15 and under are admitted free of charge).
Cut sunflowers cost $1 per stem.
“We also have some photographers who work with us and donate their time — (Wild Child Photography and Dawn Kroening Photography) come out and do professional, mini-photo shoots. All the proceeds from that go to us as well,” she said.
It’s a popular site for photographers in general, which also helps to bolster awareness about the Sunflower Fundraiser overall.
Old MacDonald Kennels serves an extensive area, providing animal services for Ponoka, Ponoka County, Camrose, Bashaw, Donalda, Starland County, Stettler County, the village of Hay Lake, and Rimbey.
“It’s a really beautiful kennel, and we have a lot of outdoor areas,” said Thomson of the site. “We also have an agility park that people can donate to and use.”
In the meantime, the demand for services has been increasing over the past couple of years.
“Right now, it’s really hard to keep up,” said Thomson. “We get non-stop calls every day, messages, and emails from people even wanting to surrender their dogs.”
Thomson said many people chose to take on pets during the pandemic while they were home and off work.
But these days, pets sometimes don’t fit with people’s lifestyles post-COVID, so they are looking to surrender them.
“There are a lot of strays that we are picking up as well,” she said.
“If we get the call, we have to go and pick them up. It’s just non-stop — it’s hard to keep your head above water, really.”
Combine that with the hike in the cost of living, and it makes paying the bills that much more of a challenge, she said.
“Everything costs more, so it can also make fundraising a bit more difficult,” she said. “That’s why we try to do things that are for the community as well — so we can also try to give back and offer something in return for what people give to us.”
About 500 dogs are rescued each year by OMK in the areas they serve.
Old MacDonald Kennels was established in 2007 by Martine Huijssoon and her husband William.
Martine said besides the importance of hosting the fundraiser, it’s also a joy to share the sunflower fields with the public at large.
“People come from everywhere, and it’s really fun to see everyone. Animals that have been adopted are even brought back for walks. It’s about the fundraising, but it’s also really something that people enjoy.”
Today, in addition to animal services, Old MacDonald Kennels also offers quality pet boarding services in a modern spacious rural facility, dog training, and adoption.
Meanwhile, along with the Sunflower Fundraiser, OMK staff are also gearing up for an online silent auction.
“We are calling it the ‘Chasing Summer Online Auction’ and it kicks off Sept. 6.,” said Thomson.“We are looking for donations for that as well.”
Old MacDonalds Kennels is located at 430023 Range Road 235 in Ponoka County.
For more about the Sunflower Fundraiser or about Old MacDonald Kennels in general, check out www.oldmacdonaldkennels.com or call 403-783-7447. They can also be found on social media platforms.