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Master Gardeners Give Flower Power to Cancer Survivors at Relay For Life

LeeAnne Caffrey (center), Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist at Overlook Medical Center's Carol G. Simon Cancer Center in Summit, receives a delivery of more than 700 flowers and greens donated by the Master Gardeners of Union County for the Survivors Reception at the 10th Annual Relay For Life on June 4. UCMaster Gardeners Sandi Schroeder (right) and Joann Gornowski (left) created 34 table and guest survivor speaker bouquets for the reception.

On June 4, 2011, Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist LeeAnne Caffrey was the happy recipient of more than 700 flowers and greens from Union County Master Gardeners Sandi Schroeder and Joann Gornowski.  

Caffrey, representing the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, chaired the Survivors' Reception at the American Cancer Society's 10th AnnualRelay For Lifein Berkeley Heights, NJ, for which the flowers were donated.  Nearly 200 people attended theReception, including 88 cancer survivors, their families and their friends. 

The flowers, in colors of pink, white, blue and yellow, were, in great quantity, grown by the Master Gardeners in their Flower Cutting Gardens, two of nine large MG garden plots located at Trailsidein the Watchung Reservation (Mountainside).  Other flowers were either purchased by Master Gardeners or donated from their home gardens. 

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Schroeder and Gornowski filled 34 vases with lush bouquets for the event, using most as centerpieces on guest and welcoming tables and placing four large vases on the catering tables.  The vases were filled with peonies, roses, foxglove, tulips, carnations, alstromeria, snapdragons, and hyacinth.  These, says Schroeder, “looked lovely against tables covered in royal blue cloths.” 

One special bouquet was given to Deborah Woodbury, the Reception’sguest survivor speaker.  Woodbury founded, a community of people talking about the gifts and losses of life beyond cancer.  Physician Joana Emmolo, a Radiation Oncologist at Overlook Medical Center‘s Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, alsoaddressed the group.

As guests registered for the Reception, they were given an event tee shirt and a lovely potted plant from Seeds for Hope, a nonprofit (502c3) organization founded by Schroeder that receives donations to help purchase seeds, plants and flowers for the Flower Cutting Gardens

Noting that 2011 was the 4th year in which Schroeder, Gornowski and their team of Master Gardeners have furnished the flowers for the Survivors Reception, Caffrey said “the flower arrangements were beautiful, as always.  The table center pieces, food table arrangements and speaker bouquet were magnificent.   They truly helped transform a school cafeteria into something special.”  Caffrey noted that “all participants were very touched by the attention, the speaker and the gifting they received.”

She went on to say that “every week, Sandi and Joann also beautify our Carol G. Simon Cancer Center lobby with a floral arrangement.  They are great to work with and we are grateful for their touches of love and life.  Sandi, in fact, made a special effort this year to make this Survivors Reception happen on June 4th,despite having her own wedding celebration on June 5th!!!”

Since 2007, Master Gardeners Sandi Schroeder, Joann Gornowski and their team of Master Gardeners have donated more than 14,000 flowers and greens from their Flower Cutting Gardensand from the nonprofit Seeds For Hope.  The flowers were given for the benefit of cancer patients and survivors not only at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, but at the Wellness Community of Central Jersey, the Susan G. Komen North Jersey Foundation and, most recently, the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation of Scotch Plains.  On Sunday, June 12, 2011, ECF hosted an afternoon tea for mothers of children diagnosed with cancer. 

In May 2011, the Master Gardeners of Union County were pleased and gratified to receive a grant of $1,895 from the Westfield Foundation to purchase and install new fencing around one of their Flower Cutting Gardens.  This garden was previously besieged by small animals.

An estimated 1,500 people participated in the 10th Annual Relay For Life, held on June 3-4, 2011 at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights.  The event raised $350,000 for the American Cancer Society.  As host of the event’s Survivors’ Reception, the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center raised funds through bake sales, a donation from Art at Overlook, and grants from pharmaceutical companies Genentech and Celgene (Summit).  They also sponsored a bounce-house ride for children, located near the Relay For Life walking track.  For more information on the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, visit  For more information on Relay for Life, visit

The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County are community volunteers who provide gardening and land stewardship services to the general public.  They cultivate Demonstration Gardens in the Watchung Reservation next to the Union County Science Center in Mountainside.  RMGUC is headquartered at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield.  For more information on the Master Gardener program, call Lynne Orlofsky at (908) 654-9854 or visit

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