When a loved one dies suddenly and tragically, time seems to slow down. It feels like you are stuck in that moment with a foggy mind and numb feelings.
Grief sets in and all you want to do is be around friends and family experiencing the same loss. The shock of the loss takes your breath away, makes your body weak, and you focus on nothing else but how life will never be the same.
Unfortunately, the world does not come to a halt even though it certainly feels like it has. Bills still need to be paid, groceries need to be bought, and work does not stop.
On November 5, Steve Wollyung had already put a lot of time into the harvest but still had the last 112 acres of his land to go before finishing the season. As he was preparing his equipment that morning, the unthinkable happened.
His 4-year-old granddaughter, Ayla, became trapped while playing in a grain wagon. First responders were able to remove her, but she was in critical condition.
Ayla was airlifted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital but later died from her injuries. The Wollyung family was in disbelief and shock; finishing the harvest was the last thing on Steve’s mind.
When longtime family friend Tara Henry heard about the tragedy, she called Steve’s wife, Carmen, to share her condolences and ask if they had finished with their harvest. Carmen replied they still had over 100 acres and did not know if they would be able to finish.
Tara called a few friends who had already harvested their own crops and asked them if they would help. Word spread quickly, and soon Tara was contacted by over 60 people about donating their time and equipment to help Steve and his family.
On the morning of November 12, the volunteers joined together with their equipment at the Wollyung farm. Steve gave them instructions on what was left to harvest, they gathered in prayer, and were soon out in the fields.
Steve was completely blown away by the number of people who came to help saying, “I couldn’t believe it when I saw everyone show up to help. All of the support and the number of people wanting to help is overwhelming. It was emotional to see everyone. Whatever we needed, they brought.”
Together, they were able finish at 5 o’clock — after harvesting 18,463 bushels — an amount it would have taken Steve a week to gather on his own! “Most farmers look out for each other and would do that for anyone,” said Nathan Williamson, one of the volunteers who came to help.
“There were a lot of tears, and it felt so good to help them. They are a wonderful family. And with all the turmoil in the world right now, it felt so good to witness this,” said Tara.
“Unfortunately, I wish the help didn’t have to come because of this tragedy, but it just shows how much everyone values Steve, and how close this community is,” she continued. “We all know Steve would drop everything to help us, and this shows everyone else doing the same for him.”
Support for the Wollyung family extended beyond the harvest though. Turnout at the funeral home was so large that a line extended out the door and down the street.
“Wollyung is such a hard-working guy who would do anything for his friends,” said Dan Weiler, another family friend. Nathan Williamson added, “He’s a very honest, stand-up guy, and just a good community member. I was talking with some other people at the farm and we all seem to agree the worst things happen to the best people.”
For most members of the community, there was no hesitation in agreeing to help the Wollyung family because they are so beloved. While the Wollyung’s are happy for the help, it does not completely take away the pain and loss of their Ayla.
Steve is hoping that their situation will help prevent tragedy in the future. “Around Halloween, kids visit farms and play in corn mazes and it all looks so pretty and fun. But we need to teach them that farms are a place where serious work is done and it can be dangerous.”