Van Wilgen’s Cares


Flamingo Pink Week & VW5K:

Since 2015, Van Wilgen’s has conducted our Annual Pink Week and Flamingo 5k. The Event was created as a way for Van Wilgen’s to give back after Bill Van Wilgen’s battle with Male Breast Cancer. Having survived both Leukemia and Male Breast Cancer, the Flamingo Pink week and 5K became the ideal way for the Van Wilgen’s family to help donate to Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven.

The premise of Pink Week is to honor the breast cancer color pink and generate donations through our pink lawn flamingos (both mini and large) and pink plants. Currently, this event is on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we are looking forward to getting the Flamingo Fund up soon in the future. Until then, please feel free to read about the work we have done these last 7 years:

end of a race

2018 VW5K

We can’t be more grateful for what our community has helped us accomplish! With everyone’s support and positivity, we have raised over $17,000 for our commitment to finding a cure for cancer. The contributions we have been able to make to Smilow Cancer Hospital this year are because of you, and we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

race finish line

2017 Pink Week

We are extremely proud of our community for coming together and helping us raise $15,546 for Smilow Cancer Hospital. Nothing fills our hearts better than seeing all of the pink lawn flamingos throughout our community. We appreciate your lasting support in helping us garden for a cure.

people with giant check

2016 Pink Week

An excerpt from Bill Van Wilgen – “Last Wednesday, I had the honor of presenting a check for all of the donations received from this year’s flamingo adoption. It was great to hand this check to Kevin Walsj of Yale New Haven Hospital alongside my family in our beautiful greenhouse.

Our total this year was $23,513. It is amazing what we can do when we work together as a community. To cap off a great day, I went to an after-party at the Branford Rotary Club, and was completely shocked to see that my friends had conducted a mini-fundraiser in my honor to thank me for our dedication to cancer research. The evening was complete with a large flamingo hat they forced me to wear as they told me they were able to raise $800 for Smilow Cancer Hospital. I was overcome with gratitude.

man with plastic flamingos

This year, I asked Smilow to create a new category for Van Wilgen fundraising dedicated to male breast cancer. I feel strongly that more research and awareness needs to be raised about male breast cancer, which, quite often, goes undiagnosed and metastasizes into some other form of cancer. Whrn this occurs, it can often be too late for treatment. Beginning this year, all funds earned from Pink Week will go towards Male Breast Cancer Van Wilgen’s Fund.

After two years and many flamingos later, I personally want to thank all of you who have supported the cancer cause. We all need to be happy every time we see a pink flamingo in the landscape. I hope they make you smile as much as I do when I see them.

extended family photo

June 2016

I had the great honor of participating in the 20th Annual Looking Forward Fashion Show last night. It was a fun night for not only me but my friends and family as well. The show brings together cancer survivors, patients, and patient advocates for a night of inspiration. Proceeds from the fashion show go to support important Complementary Services Programs for patients undergoing treatment at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven and its affiliated care centers.]

cart with workers outside store

2015 Pink Week

An Excerpt from Bill Van Wilgen: “I am still overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for our Pink Week Flamingos. It seems as though everywhere you turn, there’s a flamingo on someone’s lawn! What a huge success this was and I am so proud to say that–as of today–together, we have raised $15,400 for Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven. Isn’t it amazing what we can do when we work together?

Here are a few links to my story and some important tips for men:

CT Style, Bill Van Wilgen, and Dr. Beth Collins talk about male breast cancer

WTNH Plastic Flamingos flying out of North Branford store for charity

Every day I would run into people in our store and listen to their amazing stories of survival. I spoke with a husband and wife, one day, who were returning from a trip to Smilow right after the man had received treatment for his cancer. They had to stop at the store and buy some flamingos in support.

The daycare center that my granddaughter attends purchased flamingos and sent the sweetest card with little kid footprints on it that they decorated to look like flamingos. So many of you took the time to send this story to a friend and made this silly idea the huge success that it was, and I am so grateful. I hope you all had as much fun with the flamingos as we did!


2016 – 2022 SPONSORSHIPS

Closer to free rides directly supports research and patient care at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center. We began sponsoring Closer to Free in 2016. We were a bronze sponsor in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. In 2021, we were a $5000 Silver Sponsor, and in 2022 we were a $10,000 Gold Sponsor!



We participated in the Star 99 Food for Friends to benefit the CT Food Bank: “Thank you to everyone who came out to our Star 99.9 Food Drive at Big Y in Milford🥫🦃 We collected 99 turkeys and TONS of canned goods for Connecticut Foodshare! A lot of people are going to have a great Thanksgiving this year thanks to all of you 🧡 Special thanks to our friends at Big Y World Class Market and Van Wilgen’s Garden Center.”


MAY 2022

During this period, customers were invited to round up their change when they made a purchase at Van Wilgen’s garden center or Garden Mart. The effort was successful in raising $8,022, which will be evenly distributed among four foundations in Van Wilgen’s market area.

“We have counted on the love and support of customers in our community for more than 100 years, and were amazed by their generosity during our Change the Community fundraiser,” said Ryan Van Wilgen, vice president of Van Wilgen’s Garden Center. “This money will help support numerous worthwhile causes in the towns we serve, at a time when economic uncertainties make this assistance all the more important.”

Dan Cosgrove animal shelter donation

fall 2022

Fall of 2022 VW’s donated over $10,000 in plant material and landscaping to the newly remodeled and improved Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter.  Fundraising had taken years and required more funds during the price increases of 2021.  VW’s helped out by submitting a bid for $0.

foote riverside park planting

APRIL 2021

To help celebrate a newly reclaimed Town park space at Foote Riverside Park on Earth Day, Bill Van Wilgen (foreground on the machine), his son, Ryan Van Wilgen (operating yellow backhoe), and members of their landscaping installation team volunteered to work the earth with shovels, rakes, and machines to install dozens of donated Van Wilgen’s nursery plants in the new topsoil of two garden islands carved into a portion of the park frontage along Pine Orchard Road.



We sell ice cream sandwiches in the store that go towards helping families. LoloWich was created with love to combine the joy of ice cream and a dream of supporting the special needs community. We buy the sandwiches outright and donate the “profit” and the cost of the ice cream back to the charity. …. So for every ice cream sandwich you buy at VW’s…the whole amount is going to help local families.

LoloWich was created, with love, to honor my granddaughter, Loelle. Loelle was born with CHARGE Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder involving extensive medical and physical difficulties. It is our mission to bring awareness and recognition to the strength and determination of the families faced with similar challenges


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