Unique farm-to-table fundraiser provides respite for kids fighting cancer

Local News

TOWN OF BOSTON, N.Y. (WIVB) — A unique fundraiser this summer at a farm in the Town of Boston is helping kids through the fights of their lives.

Children with cancer and blood disorders were invited to explore the grounds and enjoy a gourmet meal free of charge last weekend at Stillwater Farm, where stress just seems to disappear. A weekly dinner series throughout the summer in which top local chefs serve up multi-course meals provides funding for the event.

On a Saturday in June, Chef Darian Bryan cooked up his highly popular Jamaican cuisine, with a twist. All the meat that was in his four-course tasting menu came from the farm it was cooked on.

The next day, the dinner bell rang for another intimate dinner gathering. Micahel Dimmer, the owner of Marble + Rye in Buffalo, dished up a six-course meal. Carefully curated cocktails and consciously chosen wine was served with each course. The food, again, was grown nearby.

“Most, if not all of the proteins have come locally sourced, most of which have come from this farm,” Dimmer said. “So Jay Braymiller from Stillwater Farm, we’re using his lamb, we’re using his chicken and eggs. It’s as really as local as it gets.”

The owners of the farm, Jay and Margaret Braymiller, take pride in creating a serene atmosphere for the market animals, which is key to generating good meat. When you step foot on the farm, that tranquility is noticed immediately.

“It’s got a lot of solitude,” Margaret Braymiller said. “Being here is peaceful and happy, so that’s what I’m hoping people feel when they come here.”

The Braymillers know they have something special there but don’t want it to just be appreciated by the animals. So, they started a non-profit called C.A.R.E. (Cultivating A Restorative Environment). The dinners raise money for programs that allow the farm to be used as a respite for some deserving kids.

“My favorites so far were the horses and maybe the chickens,” Gia Rodo said when she visited the farm.

Gia and her family recently joined dozens of other families there for a picnic, free of charge. The day started with meeting all the pet animals at Stillwater, including pigs Eleanor and Pennylane, horses and more.

“She licked my hand!” yelled Rocco, Gia’s little brother.

The Rodos and every other family there are going through different, but equally difficult fights: pediatric cancer or blood disorders.

“It wasn’t fun … I hated it, that’s definitely for sure,” Gia said about her fight with Leukemia. “But with the pandemic at that time, it was even worse because I couldn’t go anywhere.”

For Gia, the farm outing was one of the first times since 2018 that she’s enjoyed an afternoon outside of her home, with others around. For three long years, she battled cancer, but on May 28, she finally rang the bell at Roswell.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I loved it.”

“We are now enjoying some time together without that shadow,” Gia’s dad, Nick Rodo, said.

After meeting the animals, the kids got a cooking demonstrations from the executive chef of Oliver’s and Britesmith Brewing, Ross Warhol. And then Warhol created a feast for them, keeping in mind the fresh ingredients that would fuel a little body fighting a tough disease.

“This is where it’s all coming together for me and sinking in,” Warhol said. “To see them having a carefree day, enjoying seeing the animals and interacting, is just awesome to see them have a good day.”

It was a good day with good food on the farm, all thanks to a family who truly cares for every living being around them.

“Getting back out, watching my kids hang out with other people … I don’t know, it’s just priceless,” Nick Rodo said.

The Farm Dinners are nearly sold out for this summer. Next summer’s dinner tickets will go on sale in April.

Kelsey Anderson is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.

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