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VCU medical student repurposes wedding bouquets for hospital patients

Updated: Apr. 25, 2021 at 1:25 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Here in River City, a graduating VCU medical student is giving new meaning to the old wedding rhyme, “something old, something new.”

You’ll often find Eleanor Love and her team of volunteers spending their weekend mornings collecting flower arrangements from wedding venues.

It’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of taking care of hospital patients, but for two years, that’s exactly how Love has been accomplishing that goal.

“When I heard about a similar organization operating in another city, that was the spark of inspiration for me,” Love said.

That spark bloomed into The Simple Sunflower.

“We interface with event planners and wedding florists who will speak with their clients and ask whether they have a plan for the flowers once the wedding is over,” Love said.

Once they get the green light from the wedding vendors and their couples, Love and her team start collecting the donated flowers, rearranging and regifting the bouquets to those in serious need.

“Patients who are receiving end-of-life care, so first and foremost our bouquets go there. Then the extra bouquets that we create are distributed to COVID patients,” Love said. “My work with The Simple Sunflower reminds me of the humanism that’s in medicine.”

The organization had to slow some of its distribution efforts when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, but Love hasn’t let the challenges of coronavirus keep her from delivering the flowers and expanding the organization.

Depending on the number of donated bouquets, Love and her team can create between 20 and 50 individual floral arrangements for hospital patients. To date, The Simple Sunflower is responsible for delivering more than 500 bouquets and counting, each complete with a personal touch with the help of volunteers.

Every bouquet is personally signed by the volunteers so each patient knows who made the arrangement.

“I’m so happy we’re able to put our names on them and personalize them so that the patients know that we’re really there for them, and that we really care about them,” volunteer Maggie Nguyen said.

“The patient’s face lights up, they express excitement and gratitude, and you can see them regain energy in their body as we come in with this unexpected gift of flowers,” Love said. “My work with The Simple Sunflower reminds me that there is a person and a human being behind every medical test that you do, every diagnostic image you obtain... and to me, that means the most.”

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