Eight dedicated Union County Master Gardeners on the MGs’ Flower Cutting Garden Team came together on Friday, June 7, 2013 to arrange and distribute more than 600 flowers and greens for the annual Cancer Survivors Reception hosted by the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center on June 8th at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights. The Reception followed the American Cancer Society’s 12th Annual Relay For Life, held on June 8-9 at GLHS.

Celebrating their 7th year as floral providers for the Reception, MG Flower Team leaders Sandi Schroeder (Summit) and Joann Gornowski (Scotch Plains) worked diligently with Jeanne White (Scotch Plains) Laurie Westra (Cranford), Maria Henkel (Westfield), Sharon Pryor (Scotch Plains), Libby Reiss (Scotch Plains) and Judy Letwick (Westfield) to fill 31 Reception table centerpiece vases with stock, freesia, Queen Anne’s lace, lavender, and tea roses in colors of hot pink, blue, lavender and green.  They also prepared three large displays of flowers for the serving tables and podium, and fashioned a large hand bouquet for the Reception’s guest speaker, a cancer survivor.  Dr. Louis Schwartz, Radiation Oncologist from Overlook Medical Center, also spoke to the group. 

Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist LeeAnne Caffrey of Overlook Medical Center’s Carol G. Simon Cancer Center happily received the flower donations on June 8th.Caffrey organized the annual event on behalf of CGSCC, aided by OMC colleague Donna Delicio, RN, MSN, CNE, and Manager of Outpatient Oncology Services, and other OMC staff.

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200 people attended the Reception, including cancer survivors, their families and their friends.  Each survivor received an ACS Relay for Life Survivors T Shirt, a corsage courtesy of Hall’s Garden Center, a beautiful key chain embossed with “Life is good – enjoy the little things,” and a terracotta pot planted with shades of pink and white vinca provided by Seeds For Hope, a nonprofit (502c3) organization founded by Schroeder that receives donations to help purchase plant materials for the group’s Flower Cutting Gardens.

All Reception flowers were either donated by the MGs from their home gardens, purchased by Seeds For Hope, or picked from these Flower Cutting Gardens -- two of nine large garden theme plots in their Demonstration Gardens, located at Trailside in the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside.

Since 2007, Schroeder, Gornowski and their team of Master Gardeners have donated more than 27,000 flowers and greens from these flower sources. The flowers are given for the benefit of cancer patients and survivors not only at CGSCC, but at the Cancer Community of Central Jersey, the Susan G. Komen North Jersey Foundation, the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation of Scotch Plains and Curemonos in Summit.

The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County are trained community service volunteers who, in 2013, are celebrating their 25th year as providers of gardening, land stewardship and horticultural therapy services to the general public. Since 2002, the MGs have donated nearly 20,000 lbs. of fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs to local food pantries and soup kitchens.They grow this hardy produce in their Community Sharing Garden and Annex, and their Berry Patch, Herb and Harry Potter Gardens on their Trailside site.

RMGUC is headquartered at 300 North Ave. East in Westfield. For more information on the Master Gardener program, call 908-654-9854 or visit mastergardeners-uc.org

1,080 people (114 teams) participated in this year’s 12th Annual Relay For Life in Berkeley Heights.  The event raised $322,071.19 for the American Cancer Society.  For more information on the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, visit atlantichealth.org/simon/.  For more information on Relay for Life, visit relayforlife.com.