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Blossoms of Hope Celebrates 10 Years, Future Growth

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Pretty In Pink, the Pink Greens Golf Classic, Power of the Purse, Pink Plates — and the list goes on. And as Cherrybration Days unfold in Howard County, so do a growing number of activities that offer something for everyone.

Whether it’s the Enchanted Forest Cherrybration at Elioak Farms, the juried theme art show, Cherrybration at Savage Mill or the Hills of Milltown 5K Race, the activities have captured the hearts of the participants and planners alike.

Cherrybration is offered by Blossoms of Hope, a nonprofit that is celebrating its 10th anniversary of beautifying the community while raising awareness of breast cancer prevention and raising money to benefit those coping with cancer.

With a new administrative coordinator, Ellene “Lene” McCollum, and an active board of directors, Blossoms of Hope is entering its own “spring growth” period as an organization. The results are not only beautiful, but beneficial: 1,800 Blossoms of Hope trees are now in place across Howard County and more than $225,000 has been contributed to the Howard Hospital Foundation, earmarked for Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center.

Joe Barbera, co-owner of AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar and chair of the Blossoms of Hope board, took time amidst planning for Cherrybration to compliment his fellow board members. “We have a board of directors that is second to none,” he said. “It’s a group that works very well together and is very active. A lot of boards don’t have people there other than as namesakes, but everybody on this board is hardworking.”

Beautify, Benefit

The dual mission of Blossoms of Hope is what makes it such an attractive spring tradition for so many families, said Anne Towne, president of the Towne Group and a consultant for many area nonprofits, including Blossoms of Hope.

“Blossoms of Hope combines the effort of fundraising with an effort to beautify the county,” she said. Towne suggested that, whichever Cherrybration events people choose, they also go out and enjoy the groves of cherry trees. A map as well as a calendar of events can be found at www.blossomsofhope.org.

“It’s a beautiful time of year,” said Towne.

People can also purchase trees through an online store via the Blossoms of Hope web site. In addition to Kwanzan cherry or native dogwood trees, people also can purchase “legacy” trees, which are saplings from the original Japanese cherry trees in the District of Columbia. Only three legacy trees are available. In addition, people can buy Maggie Brown Grove trees to plant by Lake Kittamaqundi. A portion of the proceeds from each official tree that is planted is donated to the cancer resource center.

Enthusiasm Blooms

As administrative coordinator for Blossoms of Hope, McCollum has a professional, as well as a personal, excitement regarding Cherrybration events this year. She has lived in Howard County for nearly three years, and said she looks forward to organizing and attending events that continue to get her out into the community.

“My family is going to the events,” said McCollum, who has three sons, ages 11, 9 and 5. “There is something for every age group.”

Cherrybration at Elioak Farms is a special draw for families with young children. All kids get a free hayride if at least one person in the family is dressed as a pink princess. Kids can also dress up in princess gowns at the farm for a photo opportunity with “Princess Cherrybella.”

Echoing Towne, McCollum urged people to not only attend Cherrybration events and purchase trees, but also to simply appreciate the beauty of the groves. “We’re planning to do a family picture this spring, and we will choose a weekend when the trees are in bloom. I believe every family can find a unique way to experience the trees in a way they haven’t before.”

Personal Ties

Nearly everyone has a personal story about someone they love who has been affected by cancer. Mimi O’Donnell, president of O’Donnell Consulting and a Blossoms of Hope board member, is managing the golf tournament for the seventh consecutive year.

“My involvement started when I learned about this program, and it was shortly after [that] my best friend died of breast cancer,” she said. “My first foray into philanthropy was buying a tree in her honor. Now, I just keep remembering my best friend and how her husband was so touched by the tree. He came over to the planting of the first grove.”

This year the Blossoms of Hope premier sponsor is the new Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore. Originally, Blossoms was an initiative of Howard County Tourism & Promotion, and the two organizations continue to work closely on select events, in particular the Pink Plate Specials that run the entire month of April at a number of local restaurants in Howard County.

Blossoms of Hope, with its many partners, celebrate the blooming trees throughout Cherrybration, as tourists and locals flock to activities and visit the groves.