Petal Pushers

Anh-Minh Le | October 26, 2016 | Lifestyle Story City Life National

Horticulturist Luther Burbank once noted that, “Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” Camille Kennedy, who heads the Silicon Valley chapter of Random Acts of Flowers, can certainly attest to this. Every week, the nonprofit delivers about 200 bouquets to patients at hospitals and care facilities throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, much to the surprise and delight of the recipients. “It’s a very simple concept—but it’s also very pure and very powerful,” says Kennedy. “We’re helping people get through a moment that might be really tough or adjust to a new way of life.”

At RAF’s Menlo Park warehouse, thousands of donated stems arrive weekly from a range of sources, including stores (such as Costco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s) and vendors at the San Francisco Flower Market, as well as florists and event planners. Volunteers cull through the donations, deconstructing the bunches to create beautiful new arrangements. By doing so, they maximize the number of bouquets the flowers yield. (After a birthday celebration, actress Michelle Pfeiffer, who lives in Woodside, passed along two dozen arrangements; by the time they were ready for deliveries, RAF was able to triple that figure.)

Kennedy was appointed executive director of the local RAF chapter last year. At the time, the former chef and urban planner had been a stay-at-home mom for six years; her children are now ages 7, 5 and 2. “If there was anything that was going to take me away from my kids, it would be an organization like this,” says the Menlo Park resident.

RAF Silicon Valley is currently gearing up for its major annual fundraiser: Tickets for Grow Luncheon, which will be held Nov. 1 at Sharon Heights Country Club, start at $125 per person. Kennedy is expecting 350 people and hopes to raise $150,000. The event will feature a silent auction, along with a talk by landscaper and HGTV personality Christopher Lambton, who will participate in a delivery after the luncheon. “That is really the best part of Random Acts of Flowers,” says Kennedy. “It’s delivering those moments of kindness to people who are unsuspecting and incredibly grateful—that connection with another human being who has taken the time to visit with you, and out of nowhere brings you something to make your day a little brighter.”

Originally published in the September issue of Silicon Valley

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