There is nothing like a bunch of flowers for cheering people up, whether it is at a wedding or a hospital.
Realizing this fact made a medical student at VCU School of Medicine found The Simple Sunflower, a service that delivers flowers gifted at weddings to patients at VCU Medical Center.
Eleanor Love found a way to reuse wedding bouquets for patients in hospital beds. Love’s previous experience working in a flower shop part-time for a year while volunteering with the National Health Corps in Philadelphia served as inspiration for that.
“I think that’s where my love of flowers and the idea that I could actually make a beautiful arrangement stemmed,” Love said. She started medical school the following year, and then heard about a flower regifting program on the west coast and decided to create her own.
She got in touch with local wedding venues and coordinated with VCU Health Volunteer Services to get the flowers picked up and created new bouquets. In July 2019, the first bouquets that Love and fellow volunteers made through The Simple Sunflower reached patients.
“One of the challenges of being a medical student is that it can be very difficult to contribute to the care team,” Love said. “You are there primarily as a learner, but you want to make an impact on your patients, and you don’t have the same knowledge as physicians.”
Apart from making patients feel joyful and bright, studies prove that flowers have a positive impact on health outcomes for hospitalized patients. Based on the research, improving patients’ outcomes “is perhaps the most important impact I hope to make through The Simple Sunflower,” Love said.
“Flowers have been shown to improve healing and rates of recovery from surgery,” Love said. “They’ve been shown, of course, to improve people’s mental health and to lift people’s spirits.”
The volunteers enjoy repurposing wedding bouquets too. “Volunteers have been thrilled to be able to deliver to patients an unexpected gift that will brighten their day,” said Amanda Landes, director of VCU Health Volunteer Services.
“And people seem to enjoy the story of how The Simple Sunflower came to be and that it is making good use of something that otherwise would be discarded.”