Tears of joy. Messages of thanks. Communities filled with flowers. These are just some of the stories coming in — and still being shared on social media — after last week’s Petal It Forward. Floral industry members in 467 cities in 50 states plus Washington, D.C., and Canada led 573 local Petal It Forward events on October 11. Throughout the country, industry segments worked together, and drew in community groups, to make the effort a success — boosting spirits and raising awareness about the powerful effect of giving and receiving flowers.
“I can’t tell you how many people immediately reached out to hug me after I handed them their bouquets,” said Nicole Palazzo of City Line Florist in Trumbull, Connecticut. “I had a lady tell me she just got diagnosed with cancer that day and just came from the hospital and we were the first people she saw. She broke down in tears.”
A lasting image of the day for Palazzo: flowers everywhere. “It really made me smile and feel warm and fuzzy to walk down the street and see each person who passed me with an armful of flowers,” she said. “It’s not something you see every day. I loved how Petal It Forward not only promoted acts of kindness and happiness but also flowers.”
That’s exactly the kind of message SAF Vice President of Marketing Jennifer Sparks said Petal It Forward was designed to convey.
“It’s the surprise element —when people unexpectedly receive flowers, and get the chance to make someone else’s day brighter — that gives Petal It Forward its charm,” said Sparks. “Whether people were direct recipients of flowers or the saw the stories and images on the news or social media, this nationwide effort brought a positive light to communities across the country and showed the true power of flowers to create smiles, at a time when the country needed it most.”
Publications in nearly three dozen states and Canada covered Petal It Forward events this year, and thrilled recipients helped create a stream of positive social media stories. (Look for more coverage on the overall reach of the campaign in next week’s E-Brief.)
‘Such a Sight’: Participants Recount a Joyful Day
The feel-good stories from the day are overwhelming, but here are a few “favorite moments” from some Petal It Forward participants:
In Portland, Oregon, Michelle O’Brien of Goose Hollow Farms enlisted the help of her 10-year-old son. When the girls’ cross-country team from a local high school passed by, he charged after the runners and, to their surprise, gave them flowers. Later, when O’Brien and her staff were locking up, they saw a group of girls running nearby. “Sure enough, one of the girls was running in the middle of the pack with a bouquet still held high,” she said. “It was such a sight.”
“We absolutely loved bringing people some kindness and love through flowers,” O’Brien added. “There were many tears of joy shed. [It] shows a need for more things like this in our world.”
Abbey Shelton and the team from Rose Garden Florist in Paducah, Kentucky, spread their Petal It Forward joy to consumers around town and even visited several nursing homes, but it was an interaction with one particular man in front of a local market that most touched Shelton.
“We handed two roses to a gentleman and told him to keep one and give one away,” Shelton explained. “He replied to us that he was giving the food in his bag to a homeless lady. So, he was going to pass that flower with his food along to her. That was probably the best moment of the day — being a part of his kind gesture and making it doubly awesome.”
In Indianapolis, Bokay Florist was able to leverage its location in a “vibrant, artsy” village to reach a “diverse group of people,” said Colleen Sanders. The shop was featured in a glowing segment on WISH-TV. “We saw a lot of our regular customers, and met some new people,” Sanders said. “Being able to give something back to this community was extremely rewarding. My favorite moment was when a member of my team said, ‘This is energizing and gives me hope.’”
Michelle Jones of Flowers by Michelle in Las Vegas said her shop moved through 200 bouquets fast after setting up in a downtown area where they were able to surprise mostly local residents who are still dealing with the aftermath of the tragic shooting in that city.
“The recipients loved it and we have had great feedback on social media [and through] email and phone calls,” Jones said. “Many said that they either order from us or have received flowers from our shop. They were so appreciative.”
In Waldorf, Maryland, Lorrie Anderson of Country Florist teamed up with a nonprofit that helps adults with special needs and a hair salon to distribute bouquets around the county. “It is truly a great idea to impress upon people how much people love getting flowers,” she said.
Relles Florist in Sacramento handed out 5,000 stems — 1,500 bouquets — and scored an appearance on “Good Day Sacramento.” “I really enjoyed the preparation, the teamwork, but mostly I enjoyed the hugs from the strangers we meet,” said Alicia Relles “That look of surprise and total shock that we are actually giving things away to our community, without a catch.” The shop also created a fun short video for YouTube.
Segments Working Together
Many of the year’s most successful efforts relied on collaboration (and generosity) among industry segments, with wholesalers and growers offering donated and discounted flowers, along with planning and logistical support. Some highlights:
Bill Doran Company, headquartered in Rockford, Illinois, encouraged participation from nearly 270 of its retail customers in Petal It Forward, a powerful team effort that ended up distributing 32,500 bouquets and single-stem roses. One outreach that the team supported, at a local school in rural southern Illinois, created such high demand that the florist moved through 300 bouquets in an hour and had to call the Bill Doran branch for reinforcements.
Frank Adams Wholesale in Portland, Oregon, helped 20 florists do Petal It Forward events —and then had their own employees join the fun, too. With the support of more than a dozen farms, the company donated 100 boxes of flowers, totaling 10,000-plus stems, to florists in Oregon and southwest Washington.
“It was important for us to participate because we rarely get to see the end result of what flowers mean to people, and the experience renews our energy for what it is we do as wholesalers,” said Robyn Peterka, the company’s cut flower manager and buyer.
Tyler Meskers of Oregon Flowers in Aurora, Oregon, said the buildup to the event actually represented a highlight of his experience. Prepping his family’s flowers for Frank Adams felt akin to “wrapping Christmas presents,” he explained. (Oregon Flowers donated 1,880 lilies to Frank Adams and created a few dozen bunches to Petal Forward in their local community.)
DV Floral Group worked closely with Holland America and Sun Valley Floral Farms to provide more than 60 customers in New England, the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic with more than 5,500 discounted bouquets. The company’s own employees also participated in the event. (Bill Prescott, marketing and communications specialist for Sun Valley Floral Farms, said the company donated 3,000 bouquets across four states; many customers also bought discounted royal lilies for the event.)
“We had an amazing time,” said John Burk, e-commerce project manager. “It was such an incredible experience to see so many happy people all over town.” The company also produced a heartwarming video documenting their efforts.
Taylor Farms and Sakata Seed America passed out 400 bouquets on the streets in downtown Salinas. Kitayama Brothers and Green Valley Floral donated flowers for the effort. “I loved being part of this program. Seeing the look on people’s faces when we handed them bouquets was priceless,” said Katrina Gargiulo of Taylor Farms. The groups received media coverage from trade and local press and created a YouTube video documenting their efforts.
Dramm and Echter in Encinitas, California, organized more than a dozen industry companies to help with Petal It Forward. The grower did extensive pre-event promotion and provided product, handing out more than 6,000 stems. Their use of social media showed firsthand the fun reactions to getting flowers, like in this Facebook Live video.
Look for additional coverage of Petal It Forward in Floral Management magazine. Have a story from the day you want to share? We want to hear it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Petal It Forward is supported by the SAF Fund for Nationwide Public Relations, which funds nationwide PR efforts that promote flowers and florists to consumers through groundbreaking research and media outreach as well as AboutFlowers.com, AboutFlowersBlog.com and NationalFloristDirectory.com.
“Programs like Petal It Forward wouldn’t be possible without the forward-thinking companies who support the SAF PR Fund,” Sparks said. “Collectively, voluntary contributions from these growers, wholesalers, suppliers and importers are what keep SAF’s consumer marketing program wheels turning.”