CANAAN — For 11 years, Danny and Allison Ring and their family have hosted a family fun day in October at the family farm on Hill Road that included pumpkin sales, live music, food, a bounce house, chain saw carving and wagon rides — all to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants children with life-threatening medical conditions their greatest wish.

Over those years, the Rings raised a total of $126,122 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine.

But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the family had to cancel the one-day event this year and, instead, is raising funds by selling pumpkins and other vegetables, potted mums, cornstalk bunches, handmade soaps and other fare at the farm from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

It has been a tough go and not only because the pandemic has forced the Rings to cancel the fun day. Dry conditions this year produced fewer pumpkins — about 2,500 — and they are about one-third smaller than usual, according to Danny Ring.

“This is all the pumpkins we have, and that’s half of what we normally get because of the drought and the deer and the woodchucks,” Ring said Sunday, looking over his field of picked pumpkins. “There’s no squash — they ate them all.”

Many businesses and organizations typically sponsor and donate to the family fun day, and volunteers helped every year. Smart & Edwards Funeral Home of Skowhegan, for example, would buy 400 pumpkins and give them to children at schools. The students would carve the pumpkins, which would then be lighted and placed at the funeral home.

“They can’t do that this year,” said Danny Ring, 58.

He and Allison Ring, 55, sat Sunday under a tree near the pumpkins with their black and white dogs Baby, a 6-year-old miniature Australian sheepdog, and Duke, a 4-year-old border collie. A warm breeze wafted through the hydrangea bushes nearby as Danny Ring recalled the reason the family started the event 11 years ago.

Ricky Gibson III, a high school student who had an inoperable brain tumor, had his wish granted to bring lights to the football field at Maranacook Community High School. Thanks in part to a $6,000 donation from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams got its lights.

“They put the lights around the field and he did see it before he passed on,” Danny Ring said of Gibson. “I played football, too, when I was in high school, so it kind of hit me.”

The first year of the Ring farm fun day event, it cost $2,800 to host the fundraiser, which garnered $2,800. Now, it costs about $8,000 to hold the event.

“We normally raise $14,000 to $15,000,” Danny Ring said. “This year, I’ll tell you, we’re going to struggle to raise enough for one wish and that’s about $7,000 unless we also get some major donations.”

He emphasized he and his wife are just two of many family members and others who work on the effort.

“It takes the whole community,” he said.

The annual family fun day in October typically draws 1,500 to 2,000 people and features more than 100 baked pies and cookies, food from Riverfront Barbecue & Grille in Augusta, pumpkin carving, face painting, draft horses, antique trucks, Canaan Fire & Rescue and more offerings on the old farm, which has been in the Ring family since 1962.

Masons, the Skowhegan Area High School Honor Society, Boy and Girl scouts and even children who have received wishes from Make-A-Wish pitch in to volunteer, according to the Rings.

Danny Ring’s mother, Betty Cote, who is legally blind, makes afghans to be sold at the fundraiser.

“It’s all about a memory and a smile,” he said. “You get to see that kid smile. It’s something you will remember.”

Cayford Orchards in Skowhegan is a big supporter of the effort. The owners buy pumpkins from the Rings for a premium price so as to help with the fundraiser and then sells them at their orchard, according to Danny Ring.

“They are the nicest people you could ever meet,” he said.

Pumpkins are reflected in the sunglasses of Kayla Carter Sunday at the Ring Family Farm stand in Canaan. Carter, husband Ryan and daughter Myah, 12, bought pumpkins for carving. Proceeds raised at the stand benefit Make-A-Wish. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

At the farm Sunday, Ryan and Kayla Carter, both 30, and their daughter, Myah, 12, were buying pumpkins, mums, dried ornamental corn and pickled eggs.

“I think what they do here is amazing for the kids, or Make-A-Wish, in general,” Kayla Carter said. “They have really good stuff. We just moved to the area from Lewiston. We stopped here and I love everything. This is our second time coming today.”

Myah, a student at Canaan Elementary School, was excited about the visit.

“I like the pumpkins and the flowers,” she said.

Anyone wanting to help sponsor the Ring family event may send checks to Danny Ring, 1228 Hill Road, Canaan, ME. 04924, he said, and those wanting to donate to Make-A-Wish may send a check to that address with a note that it is on behalf of the Ring fundraiser.

Sponsors include the Wright Farm of Clinton, River Front Barbecue, NewGen Powerline Construction of Canaan, Uncle Dean’s Natural Market of Waterville, Marshall’s Automotive Machine Inc. of Skowhegan and Seven Islands Land Co. of Bangor.

Coming up, the Rings said they plan to again host a sleigh ride event with 13 teams of horses on the last Saturday of February vacation, which they also do each year.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.