Campus & Community

The curative properties of daffodils

3 min read

Daffodil Days come 'round again to aid in battle against cancer

Harvard employees have until Feb. 23 to direct funds to the American Cancer Society by purchasing bundles of daffodils from volunteer coordinators. (Staff file photo Jon Chase/Harvard News Office)

At Harvard, February brings the promise of early delivery on spring, with bright yellow daffodils.

One of the University’s signature fundraisers, Daffodil Days is on the grow again this month. Harvard employees have until Feb. 23 to direct funds to the American Cancer Society by purchasing bundles of 10 daffodils ($7 per bundle) from volunteer coordinators. Bouquets will be delivered by Harvard Mail Services on March 22, giving the Harvard community a personal spring preview.

“This is an event that everyone looks forward to every year,” said Holly Casserly, coordinator of the 17th annual drive for the Office of Community Affairs. “Our success is directly linked to the efforts of nearly 100 volunteer coordinators throughout the University who drum up awareness and sell bouquets in their departments, but we are especially thankful to the Mail Services Department, which is the real glue of this operation.”

This year, Harvard was recognized as last year’s top seller of daffodils in the New England area, hitting a high of $35,000 in donations to the American Cancer Society. For Mail Services, such a sweeping success meant coordinating the delivery of those $35,000 worth of daffodils – nearly 6,000 bouquets – in a single day.

Not a problem. For five years, Mail Services has been willing to go the distance to deliver flowers ordered by Harvard employees. Drivers added new routes to Longwood hospitals, made treks to little-known departments, and last year, one even went as far as the Federal Reserve Building in Boston, where a few employees were stationed. But for the staffers who add flower transport and delivery to their regular mailing routes each year, the additional work also has a hidden perk.

“Even the toughest drivers on our team always come back with smiles on their faces because when they show up with the bouquets at Harvard offices, the whole mood of the place changes,” said Ursula Moore, manager of Mail Services.

Daffodils began appearing in Harvard offices and laboratories in 1988 when former department administrator for Community Affairs Rita Corkery, who was a breast cancer survivor, took on campus coordination of the drive. At the time, sales were a modest $2,500 and bouquets were delivered by Corkery and her husband. Later, Carole Lee, a former Community Affairs department administrator, advanced outreach a bit further.

“These two women helped to lay a solid groundwork for the success we have today,” said Casserly. To date, Harvard has contributed nearly $360,000 to the American Cancer Society. Last year’s top sellers were Maureen Griffin (Harvard Law School) who sold 583 bouquets and Peter Conlin (Development) who logged just more than 500 sales.

While Daffodil Days success is marked by dollars, and its popularity is linked to blooms, the event is really about a community’s effort to join the fight against cancer. “Everyone knows someone who has had cancer, so everyone has some immediate reason to be involved,” said Moore.

Proceeds from Daffodil Days fund the work of prize-winning cancer researchers, and a number of patient services, including peer-to-peer support programs for breast cancer patients, transportation to and from treatment for cancer patients, and cancer prevention advocacy programs.

– Lauren Marshall