Photo: Cathy Reinert of Elburn, with Calee Lukoshus of Elburn (left) and Kyle Russell of Maple Park, enjoy a wheel barrow ride from Mike Stoffa
of Elburn. Photo by Sandy Kaczmarski
Conley Farm Work Day draws largest group ever in first year since founder’s death
by Sandy Kaczmarski
Kaneville—About 60 people with shovels, garden gloves, rakes and brooms showed up on a misty morning for a little spring cleaning at the Conley Farm in Kaneville to get the gardens ready for community outreach programs in the coming months.
This was the first work day since the death of its founder, Bruce Conley, who succumbed to cancer last fall following a year-long battle.
“It’s a huge loss for us,” Conley Outreach Board President Al Miller said of Conley’s passing.
“If you were going to pick a model, Bruce would be your model,” he said. “What a life and what a person, right up to the last day.”
And while there was an occasional somberness in the air as those who were lost were remembered, there was too much work to do, picking up debris left over from the harsh winter and cleaning the walkways in the prayer garden, to stay sullen too long.
In addition to the cleanup, four crabapple trees were planted in memory of those who were lost in the last year, including Dave Compton, Catherine Konen, Shirley Stoffa, and, of course, Bruce Conley. Family members with spades in hand shoveled the earth over the root balls as a lasting tribute in their memory just as the sun burned off the morning mist.
“Our goal is for everybody to stop by and sit and rest and find some peace,” Farm Manager Tigger Kainz said.
Farm Manager and Director of Programming Tigger Kainz chats with Board President Al Miller. Photo by Sandy Kaczmarski
That’s just what 84-year old Willie M. King Sr., of Sugar Grove, said he does on occasion. He’s been volunteering at the farm for about six years. He lost his wife, daughter and a grandson in a 10-month period. He said Bruce “took care of everything.”
“I drive through here a lot, and I hope they don’t mind,” he said. “It gives you a different feeling. I can go home then and rest for a few hours.”
Some of the community programs include creating stepping stones made of cement that can be left in the prayer garden or be taken home. Visitors can include mementos in the stones such as key rings, coins or toys.
The Good Grief Day Camp from June 27 to July 1 is designed for children ages 6 to 12 who have lost a parent or sibling. Through music, theater, art and nature, children can learn to accept their loss.
Bruce is described as a pioneer in grief and bereavement programs and was intimately involved with families after the funerals ended. He took a special interest in children and teens, and the programs he created will continue on.
“Bruce Conley was a man who could sit down with 50 little kids and he would hold their attention for an hour,” King said. “I learned more from Bruce Conley than anyone I know.”
The Grieving Fire is held each September and allows those who have lost a loved one to write a letter to them saying things they didn’t get a chance to say.
“The ashes go up so you think, well, maybe my loved one got the message,” King said.
Kainz explained that after the bonfire, lit candles are put in plastic bowls and set afloat in the creek that runs alongside the prayer garden. She said sometimes they bunch up, and then another candle bumps into them and frees them up to continue floating away. She compared it to life’s tribulations, when sometimes it takes a nudge to move on.
“It’s the most amazing thing,” she said.
For more information on the outreach programs available, go to the Conley Outreach Community Services website at www.conleyoutreach.org, or call (630) 365.2880. Conley Farm is located at Daubermann Road and Main Street in Kaneville and is always open.
Conley Farm expands what it offers
Kaneville—The Conley Farm in Kaneville is available for weddings and special events. This is the second year the 10-acre farm has been open for receptions. Seating is about 150 and tents are available.
“We had one, and now we have four bookings,” Farm Manager Tigger Kainz said. “We’re putting in a pergola to extend seating and in the back will be a dance floor.”
Kainz said they’ll also add a second bathroom. The first one used to be a horse stall and is made entirely of raw barnboard. Photographs adorn the walls, including one of Bruce Conley.
“Sometimes the brides go into the bathroom and are surprised at how beautiful it is,” Kainz said.
For more information on booking a reception, call (630) 768-1679.