CONNERSVILLE, Ind. – An Indiana farming community came together to help a man who was coping with the death of his granddaughter.
Steve Wollyung was preparing to harvest the last 112 acres of his farm on November 5 when an unthinkable tragedy occurred, according to WXIN.
His 4-year-old granddaughter Ayla was playing in a grain wagon when she became trapped. First responders removed Ayla from the grain wagon and she was airlifted to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, where she later died from her injuries.
Tara Henry, a longtime friend of the Wollyung family, heard about the farming accident the next day. She called up Wollyung’s wife, Carmen, and asked if they were done harvesting. Carmen told her they still had over 100 acres to finish and weren't sure how they were going to get it all done.
Henry called a few farmers who had already harvested their own crops and asked if they would be willing to help. Word spread quickly and pretty soon more than 60 people from several counties contacted Henry about donating their time and equipment to help the Wollyung family.
The small army of farmers with their combines, semis, and grain carts gathered on Saturday, November 12. Henry told everyone what was left to do, they said a prayer, and they were out in the fields by 10 a.m.
Friends and neighbors who couldn’t help in the fields donated sandwiches, soup, snacks, and drinks.
Wollyung admitted he was shocked:
“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 just overwhelming. It was emotional to see everyone. Whatever we needed, they brought.”
Working together, they finished harvesting 18,463 bushels by about 5 p.m. Steve said it would have taken him about a week to do the work all on his own.
After they had finished, Henry described the emotional day:
“There were lots 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. 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. We all know Steve would drop everything to help us, and this shows everyone else doing the same for him."
Nathan Williamson showed up at the farm with his semi to help haul the grain. He says the high turnout is just a reflection of the type of person Steve is.
“He’s a very honest, stand up guy, and just a good community member," Williamson said. "I was talking with some other people at the farm and we all seem to agree that the worst things happen to the best people.”
Williamson added that such an effort is typical of the farming community. “Most farmers look out for each other and would do that for anyone.”
“The Fayette County area is often looked down on because the unemployment rate is high and there’s no money," Wollyung said. "But this truly shows the people in (Fayette, Wayne and Union counties) will drop everything to help their neighbors in times of need.”
Wollyung says he hopes that by sharing his story he can raise awareness about how dangerous farms can be for children.
“We’re hoping this tragedy will help others down the road," Wollyung said. "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 is work is done and it can be dangerous.”