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Fighting cancer with flowers

Posted on March 19, 2014 by Lethbridge Sun Times

Photo by Lindsay Ducharme

Keri Griffith, left, with the Canadian Cancer Society, and volunteer Cherylanne Mueller display daffodil pins available in April as part of the Cancer Society’s Daffodil Days.

Temperatures are rising and though it may still be a while before the first flowers of spring make their appearance, the city will soon be in bloom when the Canadian Cancer Society hosts its annual Daffodil Days April 3-5.

For three days, 10 locations across the city will be selling bunches of the beautiful blooms to raise money and awareness for cancer. Keri Griffith, revenue development co-ordinator with the Cancer Society’s Lethbridge office, explained that Daffodil Days have a strong history across the country, with the campaign spanning more than a half century.

“Our daffodil campaign kind of started as an awareness program for the Canadian Cancer Society. It’s about a 60-year-old program. Lady Eaton, from the Toronto Eaton Centre, used to run a cancer fundraiser, a ladies’ cancer fundraiser, every spring or summer and she would sell daffodils and it became this ongoing thing.”

During the three-day campaign, daffodils will be available for purchase at two locations within the University of Lethbridge, Park Place mall, Old Navy, both the north and west Save-On Foods locations, the Real Canadian Superstore, Uplands Sobeys location and the southside Canadian Tire. The live flowers will come in bunches of 10-12 at a cost of $6.

“We have been giving individuals or community-based businesses the opportunity to buy a $25 vase that gets done all up with greenery and a bow from Marquis Flowers. A lot of businesses also choose to order cases of daffodils and then will send them to seniors homes as a gift of thanks or they just buy them and hand them out to their clients,” Griffith added.

Griffith said she believes the daffodil’s long-standing relationship with the Cancer Society stems from hope symbolized through the flower.

“For me, I see the daffodil as representing the beginning of spring, and it kind of symbolizes hope for me,” said Griffith. “It’s got that bright yellow, hopeful, spring is coming feeling. Spring is the most beautiful and light part of the year and I think that’s something I see as being significant.”

In recent years, Daffodil Days has expanded beyond the live flowers to include the sale of a daffodil pin, which the cancer society urges the public to wear all month long. “It’s similar to a poppy,” explained Griffith.

“It’s a pin that’s sold throughout the month of April and you’re asked to buy a pin and wear a pin for the month in hopes of bringing some hope and awareness to cancer survivors and cancer patients that they are not alone, that they are people out there that are supporting your journey with you even just with that little pin.”

For cancer survivor and society volunteer Cherylanne Mueller, Daffodil Days are important not only because they offer support to those affected by cancer, but also because they provide funding for the local Cancer Society’s programs and services.

“The money that is raised here, stays here and I find that to be a special boon for this area,” she said.

“There is a lot of money that we raise here at the Canadian Cancer Society that is designated towards research, but when we do campaigns out of our local offices, we like to give focus to the programs and services that are benefitting the people of our community,” added Griffith.

Griffith said financial assistance programs, volunteer driver programs, wig lending and counselling/peer support programs were just a few of the services offered out of the Lethbridge office that will receiving funding from the money raised through Daffodil Days.

Mueller has spent the past six years in near constant treatment. A former teacher, she was forced to give up her position due to compromises to her immune system as a result of her treatment.

During her time as a client with the Cancer Society, Mueller accessed their transportation and financial programs for her treatment in Calgary. She encouraged anyone involved on a cancer journey to access the programs and services offered by the cancer society.

“It’s a place to go if you are looking for comfort, or information and help. The people here are always very knowledgeable, very kind and very compassionate. Anytime I come here I have left happier than when I came,” she said.

“There is someone at the Cancer Society who knows someone who can help anyone dealing with any type of cancer. My whole thing has always been to look for survivor stories because that’s what I dwell on; the Cancer Connection program that they run here is second to none because it’s someone they find for you, a voice you can talk to, someone to tell you you’re going to be OK, and that’s so important.”

Mueller has now switched gears and shifted into a volunteer role within the Cancer Society so that she can be of assistance to others in similar situations. She encouraged everyone to participate in this year’s campaign and put their support on display.

Griffith echoed Mueller, saying those participating are “joining the fight, letting people know that we have an army of individuals that are aware, that you could lean on. Everybody has been hit by cancer in some way and I think that this is just a moment of solidarity where everyone can come together for one month and show their support for those going through cancer treatment or have become survivors and are now taking the next step into their journeys.”

Daffodil pins will be available beginning in April at over 150 locations across the city. Live daffodils will be available from April 3-5 at participating locations, but are available for pre-order at cancer.ca or by calling the local Cancer Society at 403-317-4656.

For more information on the Canadian Cancer Society, visit their website at http://www.cancer.ca/en/?region=ab.

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