Every year around March, Keith Stocker starts thinking about what he’s going to do with his next corn maze. The Snohomish, Wash., farmer and president of Stocker Farms has created many works of art with his crop, including a rendition of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and a nod to endangered animals at the Woodland Park Zoo. He was still looking for inspiration this year when he boarded an Alaska Airlines plane and picked up the in-flight magazine, Alaska Beyond.
“I started reading an article about Strong Against Cancer, (Seattle Seahawks quarterback) Russell Wilson and the research that’s being done at Seattle Children’s Hospital,” Stocker said. “I didn’t realize until I read that article how important this research is and what it’s doing for kids who are fighting for their lives, as well as their families. It spoke to me. I knew right then that this is what I needed to do for my next design.”
About four months later, the design was complete and Stocker was ready to plant the corn maze. The design included Strong Against Cancer’s signature logo of a child in a cape, as well as the Seattle Children’s iconic whale logo.
“The design has to be something that will look good on a 10-acre portrait,” Stocker said. “You have to have the right imagery and detail so that it’s clear what the picture is when you are looking at it from a helicopter, plane or hot air balloon.”
The maze was cut in mid-July, when the corn was about six inches tall; Mother Nature did the rest. Once the corn was mature and the maze was ready, the Stocker Farms team, along with Strong Against Cancer representatives, worked together to add interactive components and signage for guests so that they could learn more about pediatric cancer research and Strong Against Cancer.
Raising Money for Immunotherapy
Open to the public now through Oct. 31, the maze is raising money to support immunotherapy research at Seattle Children’s, which scientists believe has the ability to cure some types of childhood cancer in the next five to 10 years. Families with children who are battling or have survived cancer can get vouchers for free or reduced price admission.
“The more people who go to Stocker Farms and enjoy the maze, the more money we raise for pediatric cancer research,” said Doug Picha, president, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation. “We are on the threshold of a cure based on immunotherapy, but we lack the necessary funds to provide this treatment to all of the young cancer patients who need it. Initiatives like this will help us get there faster.”
Traditional cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy are hard on a child’s growing body, and can lead to lifelong developmental and health concerns. Immunotherapy research has shown that a child’s own reprogrammed immune cells can fight and defeat cancer, but government funding for clinical trials is in short supply, and insurance doesn’t fund patient participation.
“Annually, pediatric cancers receive less than 3% of the National Cancer Institute budget, which is why it’s so important for all of us to support initiatives like Strong Against Cancer,” Picha said. “The scientists working on immunotherapy have the treatment and the results to get us to a place where childhood cancer is no worse than a common virus. All that’s needed now are the resources to bring it to every kid who needs it.”
A Noble Cause
Stocker said his involvement with Strong Against Cancer, along with meeting families touched by pediatric cancer, has impacted him more than he could have imagined.
“I wasn’t prepared for the emotional challenge this was going to present to me,” he said. “I’ve met the families and I’m just so inspired by them. The strength they share is just amazing.”
“I can’t be more thrilled and proud to be involved with Strong Against Cancer,” Stocker added. “I’m so glad we are doing this.”