Like the sunflowers that are its symbol, street advertisements for the Sunflower Wine Festival began popping up all over the local area last week.

The huge fundraiser for Prayers From Maria returns July 9 on Depot Street. Although it will raise about $100,000, it isn't the money that is as important in the festival, Co-founder Megan McNamara.

“The festival does more for us in awareness than it does in funds,” McNamara said. “But that amount would be one grant.”

Prayers From Maria was founded by Megan and her husband, Ed McNamara, after losing their 7-year-old daughter, Maria, to a brain tumor in 2007. The organization helps fund global research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for deadly childhood brain tumors.

Donations and profits from events and retail provide much of the foundation's ability to issue grants. There will be a retail display at the festival.

“Retail is an important presence,” retail brand manager Lori Gentzel said. “We have a presence at Cedar Point. People see the sunflower and say, 'I've seen the field.' We will definitely have a (retail) presence at the Wine Festival. We'll have a new sunflower shirt.”

The Sunflower Wine Festival, in its 13th year, was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic, but it was one of the first events opened to the public last year. As a result, it was well attended.

“I think there was a lot of pent-up demand,” Gentzel said. “As things opened up, we were one of the first events out there. I think people had a need. People just wanted to flock. It was very, very well attended.”

Featuring local wine and craft beer gardens, local food and live music, the event also will have a mixology class featuring bourbon and handcrafted cocktails. The Wine and Craft Beer Gardens are open 4-9 p.m., while a cash bar, along with live music, will be open until 11 p.m.

Wristbands are $60 in advance and $75 the day of the event. These allow the individual 10 2-ounce pours of wine or 4-ounce pours of craft beer, or a combination of the two. VIP wristbands, which allow access to a tent with open bar and food, are $200 each.

Music will be provided by Ed Purcell, Mary's Lane and Sunset Strip.

Using 89% of the money raised, the foundation has provided $12 million in grants for research. The other 11% pays for overhead on such things as the headquarters. The McNamaras do not get a salary, and seeing the work they put in inspires the volunteers and members, Gentzel said.

“We run very, very tight here,” Gentzel said, “so the money can get out to where it needs to be in grants for these kids. This foundation is very prudent, as far as how we spend our money. And making sure the money goes into the right hands makes a difference. With an 11% overhead, those are fantastic margins as far as what is actually going out there to make a difference.

“When you see the leaders of your team putting in their time and their energy, and they have a family of four boys at home and you're being led by that, that inspires you as a team to work just as hard. You know that they're doing it out of the goodness and kindness of their heart.”

Contact this reporter at blove@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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