Editor’s note: This story has an updated comparison of the drought level to previous years.

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (KDVR) — High school senior photos are used to mark a milestone in a young person’s life. Senior year of high school has many special milestones and senior portraits are a way to celebrate this achievement. A lot of thought goes into planning for those senior portraits and Matt Hulstrom has been planning for this milestone now for three years.

“She just really loved them, I think she’s always loved sunflowers and enjoyed them,” Hulstrom said on how that thought planted a seed.

To mark his daughter’s senior year, he thought it would be special to plant her favorite flower in their backyard. But they don’t have the average backyard.

“We’re lucky to live where we live,” Hulstrom said. Lucky indeed – the Hulstroms have 10 acres of open space.

Hulstrom usually uses the area to plant wheat for profit, but this summer was different. Ten acres and roughly 32,000 seeds later, the Hulstroms’ backyard is a field of sunflowers.

“I was excited, I thought it was a cute idea and cause I remember asking him years ago like when I was still kind of young to do it again,” the Hulstroms’ daughter Paityn said.

This wasn’t the first time he’s planted sunflowers for his daughter. When they first moved into their house years ago, Hulstrom planted an acre of sunflowers on their property just for fun, but she loved them so much and that memory stuck with Paityn.

However, planting 32,000 seeds of sunflower can be a challenge.

“It was kind of stressful cause we planted them and obviously you have to depend upon rain,” Hulstrom said.

Colorado weather can be unpredictable. In fact, according to drought.gov, 3.3 million people in Colorado are affected by drought and this is the 33rd driest year to date in 2022, over the past 128 years. By chance, as soon as Hulstrom planted the seeds it rained.

“Which never happens, I mean right when I got done it started raining and it was a lot of rain and it got them up,” Hulstrom said.

There were more dry, hot days in June and July and there were times that he wasn’t sure those flowers were going to make it. Thankfully there was some very timely rain and Hulstrom said “it was almost meant to be.”

“Meant to be” indeed, thousands of sunflowers popped up and followed the sun’s rays.

“They’re a beautiful plant that everybody loves,” Hulstrom said.

Sunflowers symbolize adoration, loyalty and longevity and that definition is what Hulstrom feels about his daughter. Not only is he a farmer in the summer, but he’s also a high school teacher. So he knows how important those senior photos are to students, making this mission extra special.

What the Hulstroms didn’t expect from planting all those seeds was the response from the community.

“The amount of people who have responded on NextDoor have said the nicest things and people who have come to cut them have been so kind and so thankful,” Hulstrom said.

Hulstrom’s wife Vicki sent out a message to her neighbors after the photos were taken to come out and cut them and enjoy them. She received an overwhelming response.

“People were posting pictures of them on their table and everyone has been so nice,” Vicki Hulstrom said.

They’ve had people stop on the side of the road and take photos. “It’s been sweet and unexpected,” she said.

Known for being happy flowers and a perfect gift to bring joy to someone’s day, Hulstrom’s loving gift has brought that joy and a memory that will last through those senior portraits for his daughter for this milestone year.