CONNERSVILLE, Ind. – An Indiana farming community came together to help a man 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.
His 4-year-old granddaughter Ayla was playing in a grain wagon when she became trapped in the wagon. 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 Steve’s wife Carmen and asked if they were done harvesting, and Carmen told her they still had over 100 acres to finish and they weren't sure how they were going to get it all done.
Henry called a few farmers who were done harvesting 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 army of farmers with their combines, semis, and grain carts gathered at Consolidated Grain on Saturday, November 12. Henry gave everyone their marching orders, 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.
Steve told FOX59 he was totally 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,” Steve said. “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.
“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,” Henry said.
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. 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 also said this 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. But this truly shows the people in the Fayette / Wayne / Union county area will drop everything to help their neighbors in times of need,” Steve said.
Steve 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. 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 work is done and it can be dangerous.”