Grow the tallest sunflower in Northamptonshire-based competition and win a cash prize

Nick Smith has been running the annual Sunflower Sweepstake for three years to raise money for cancer charities after seeing a long list of his loved ones suffer with the disease

By Megan Hillery
Thursday, 3rd March 2022, 8:43 am

Are you green fingered? Have you got what it takes to grow the tallest sunflower in Northamptonshire?

Mears Ashby resident, Nick Smith, is challenging you to put your gardening skills to the test for the 2022 Sunflower Sweepstake, which aims to raise money for Breast Cancer UK.

The Sunflower Sweepstake is in its third year and was launched by Nick in 2020 amongst friends and members of his family to raise money for Cancer Research UK. A total of £500 was raised between 12 people.

Photos from last year's Sunflower Sweepstake.

Nick said: "Everyone seemed to enjoy the silly reports I would write each week and I agreed to run it the following year."

The following year, the Sunflower Sweepstake grew even more within Nick's circle of friends and family, leading to a total of 26 people taking part. Additional donations came pouring in from around the world - including Oman and Australia - and approximately £1,000 was raised for Blood Cancer UK.

Nick is now opening up the sunflower growing competition to the public in a bid to raise money for Breast Cancer UK. He hopes to raise £2,000 for the charity.

He said: "It is the first year that I have opened entry up to the general public. It is a it of a test run but hopefully it should run smoothly.

"I have entrants in the UK, France, Oman, USA, Australia and New Zealand so far.

"The competition, whilst just being a bit of fun, seems to have captured peoples imagination."

Nick's motivation to raise money for cancer came from his personal experienced of watching his closest loved ones suffer with the disease.

His mother had breast cancer twice in her forties and then passed away at the age of 52 after what Nick described as a "difficult battle." She died just a few month's after Nick's daughter - her grandchild - was born just before Christmas in 1997.

Nick's dad passed away in 2018 from prostate cancer and Nick's sister has recently been diagnosed with blood cancer.

Nick's wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was 10 weeks pregnant with their second son. She had to undergo five rounds of chemotherapy when she was pregnant and their son had to be delivered six weeks early. She had to have a radical hysterectomy in order to survive.

A close friend of Nick's has also been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Nick said: "All of these friends and family have received such amazing, compassionate, expert care from oncologists, nurses and myriad other staff, that I have wanted for a while to be able to do my bit to ensure they can continue to help people in need.

"Cancer treatments have come such a long way since my mum died in 1997 but this would not have been possible without support from charities like Breast Cancer UK.

"During this year’s competition, I want to make sure that people realise that men can get breast cancer too. One of our competitors is the wife of a man suffering from breast cancer and feels that men often mistakenly think they can not suffer from this form of cancer.

"Depending on how this year goes, I would love to turn this fundraising event in to a nationally recognised event, but lets see how this year goes first."

Those wanting to enter the sunflower growing competition can do so now by filling out an online form and making a donation of £10 minimum to the Sunflower Sweepstake's Just Giving Page, which will go towards Breast Cancer UK.

Those who have entered will receive a competition pack consisting of 'Russian Giant' sunflower seeds. Entrants may start growing as soon as they receive the seeds.

The competition will officially start on April 8, when you will be required to submit the height of your seedling on that day. Entrants will be asked to submit the height of their sunflower every Friday until the competition closes on July 22 at 6pm.

The winner will be announced on the morning of July 23.

The entrant with the tallest sunflower will receive £50 and a trophy. The entrant with the 'middle' sunflower (30th out of 60, if there are 60 entrants) will win £25 and a trophy.

Entrants are asked to encourage non-entrants to donate on the Just Giving page too and, if donors make a note of the entrant's name when they donate, Nick will calculate which entrant was the biggest fundraiser and send them a bottle of champagne.