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A blooming marvellous effort

Volunteers help bunch daffodils in preparation for Daffodil Day 2013. PHOTO/FILE

Hayley Gastmeier

Jacqui and Alastair Sutherland at Whangaimoana have been growing and donating daffodils for the Cancer Society since Daffodil Day began in 1989.

Each year, with their band of helpers, they pick and deliver thousands of flowers to Masterton for bunching and then they are sold for charity.

A group of pickers at Whangaimoana.

Jacqui and Alastair are two of many hardworking volunteers acknowledged in a new book that celebrates Wairarapa’s 30-year history of Daffodil Day, the Cancer Society’s main annual fundraiser which funds services that supports people living in the community affected by cancer.

The book, Thanks a Bunch, published on International Volunteer Day (December 5), pays tribute to hundreds of people who have been involved with raising money for Wairarapa Cancer Society through growing, picking, bunching, and selling the yellow flowers, which the charity says are “a symbol of hope”.

Jan McLaren, a Cancer Society volunteer, spent six months researching and writing the book.

It features many photographs and comments from key people involved with the cause.

“The book tells the story of a highly organised, smooth operation with a cast of thousands.”

Jan said the concept started with a conversation with Wairarapa Cancer Society centre manager Jacinta Buchanan, who wanted to celebrate the work of volunteers and their contribution to the charity.

“I talked first to Pip Murdoch and Jane McKenzie who have co-ordinated the growers, pickers and bunchers for the last 10 years,” Jan said.

“Jane and Pip get the show on the road each year contacting people willing to donate and pick flowers – sometimes in the rain and mud.

Judy Young at Middlerun in 1964.

“Jane co-ordinates the growers and pickers while Pip organises the bunchers and the premises where they arrange the flowers – it’s usually a vacant cold shop with a concrete floor, so the daffodils don’t wilt – the volunteers know how to dress for the occasion.”

Jan said the book touches on growers from all over the region, and regrettably she could not mention them all.

From Rangitumau (Masterton) to Fernside (Featherston), there are 55-60 growers who supply more than 30,000 flowers each year.

“Pip has a list of around 20 pickers and 25 bunchers who prepare the flowers for distribution to businesses throughout Wairarapa,” Jan said.

“Then on Daffodil Day an army of sellers head for the streets to sell flowers and merchandise and knock on doors for donations. None of this is weather dependent – they are out in the elements, rain or snow.

“They pick in muddy paddocks or sit on windy streets with rugs and water bottles.

“Some have been involved for 30 years like Pat Hamilton in Featherston, and June Sugrue and Jenny Drusianic in Greytown.”

Robert Young at Riverlands. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Jan said Rotary and Lions clubs, schools, businesses, and church groups contributed to the cause in one way or another, as did the Carterton RSA, with some members in their 90s still taking part in the street appeal.

“The book is their story and is a celebration of a truly incredible fundraising effort.”

ANZ Bank has been the principal sponsor of the fundraiser since 1990 and local staff raise around $6000 each year.

This year more than $50,000 was raised from the Wairarapa-wide appeal.

Jacinta said 2019 marked 35 years of support to the community from Wairarapa Cancer Society.

“We decided to acknowledge all those wonderful people who have assisted in making Daffodil Day such a unique event in Wairarapa by dedicating a book to all who have helped over the years.

“It particularly focuses on growers, suppliers, bunches, pickers, collectors, and marketers of daffodils.

“We presented each Wairarapa town Daffodil Day coordinator with a copy of the book to recognise their contribution. ANZ, our major sponsor for Daffodil Day, also received a copy.

“It’s impossible to acknowledge everyone pictorially but in the book we express our gratitude to all our committed volunteers who turn up year after year with energy and enthusiasm.”

Jacinta acknowledged Jan who volunteered her time to work on the book, and Bruce Levy, who provided many of the photographs featured inside.

Copies of the book can be ordered through the Cancer Society Wairarapa.

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