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Memorial Day Flowers program grows exponentially in 2017

What began Memorial Day weekend 2011 as a grassroots movement at Arlington National Cemetery to honor those who have served our country has grown into a floral tribute campaign at over 20 cemeteries across the U.S. The Memorial Day Flowers program originated at ANC in Arlington, VA, with 10,000 roses donated by sponsors and in 2017 more than 250,000 sponsored roses were placed on veterans’ gravesites throughout the country.

RallyPoint.com, an online network for service members and veterans, teamed up with the nonprofit Memorial Day Flowers Foundation this year and launched the #FlowersOnEveryGrave campaign to help with fundraising. Many of their members donated cash to help pay for the flowers distributed at ANC.

“The seventh year of the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation event at Arlington National Cemetery had more volunteers than ever before,” Ramiro (Robin) Peñaherrera, co-director at the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation, told The Produce News. “On Sunday, May 28, 700 volunteers placed 140,000 Colombian and Ecuadorian roses in front of headstones of men and women who have served the country, and on Monday, May 29, more than 80 volunteers helped with the distribution of 20,000 roses.”

Around 700 bouquets from California were distributed to the volunteers that participated at Arlington in appreciation for their time and service in this tribute.

In addition, Ben Dobbe and his family from Holland America in Arroyo Grande, CA, donated and gave out 600 bouquets to the children of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. These are children who have lost a parent in recent conflicts and they were able to place the bouquets on their parents’ graves.

The California Association of Flower Growers & Shippers was the lead sponsor at six cemeteries in California, Arizona, Texas and Minnesota.

ANC-DOBBEBen Dobbe, along with his wife Jen and daughters Emily and Lydia, were CalFlowers’ official representatives at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend.“It was outstanding,” Michael LoBue, chief executive officer at CalFlowers in Capitola, CA, told The Produce News. “We had two official events — one at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego where every headstone was decorated and a whole bunch of flowers placed at their wall, about 14,000 total. And the other event was at the San Francisco National Cemetery where we tripled the number of stems from last year and we had over 50 volunteers, plus a large number of Boy Scouts. It was really successful. CalFlowers would like to thank the 200-plus volunteers and scouts who participated over Memorial Day weekend in San Diego and San Francisco to be part of this special tribute to —and remembrance of — those who gave so much so we can enjoy the blessings of living in a democracy.”

Los Angeles-based Mayesh Wholesale Florist partnered with 250 of its customers to place 6,250 roses on veterans’ graves in various community cemeteries. And over 30 volunteers placed around 2,000 red Freedom roses at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.

“The sight of rows upon rows of white tombstones is sobering and made me reflect on how many Americans have served our country in the military,” Dennis Murray, a volunteer at the Fort Snelling event whose brother is interred there, told The Produce News. “The thousands of roses displayed on soldiers’ tombstones made for a beautiful sight and the juxtaposition of the American flag and the red rose in front of the headstones was a fitting honor to those buried there. It made me feel proud of the Americans who served and the donors who made it possible to honor the veterans on this very special holiday. I was honored to be a part of it.”

TD Bank Veterans Diversity Group was the lead sponsor at a group of national cemeteries along the East Coast where over 38,000 roses were distributed, including 6,000 stems that were donated by Sunrise Farms in Ethiopia. And DVFlora in Sewell, NJ, was part of this year’s event at the Salem County Veterans Cemetery in Woodstown, NJ, where 30 volunteers placed over 3,000 roses on headstones.

“When I heard that DVFlora was participating in the Memorial Day Flowers event I immediately wanted to volunteer to help out,” said Madison Underwood, DVFlora’s digital marketing coordinator, in a news release. “It was a very eye-opening experience for me and one that I will never forget. It made me truly appreciate those who have served our country and how brave each veteran was. I am thankful for the experience and I can’t wait to be involved next year.”

To stand at a gravesite, read the headstone, place a fresh flower and thank the person for their service to this country is a simple, yet profound, personal tribute to honor the nation’s fallen service members.

“And the 2017 events were all made possible thanks to sponsors, local organizers, and a plethora of volunteers,” said Peñaherrera.