Petals for OSF Hospice patients

Haley Gustafson | Daily Press Wickert Floral employee Maggie Miller, at left, holds a bouquet of flowers while Hospice Volunteer Judy Djerf, right, holds handmade cards made for OSF hospice patients. The flowers and cards are made and donated by Wickert and Djerf as part of OSF Hospice’s Petals for Patients program in which hospice patients are given a bouquet of flowers and a card to commemorate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary.

ESCANABA –The OSF St. Francis Hospice group, with a partnership with a local florist, are bringing smiles to hospice patients one petal at a time.

When Gordon Cashen, owner of Wickert Floral in downtown Escanaba, was approached by Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Kotajarvi about being involved with the “Petals for Patients” program, he was right on board.

For special occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries, the florists at Wickert create and donate a bouquet to hospice patients, reminding them they are being thought of, According to Cashen, it’s the smallest gestures that change someone’s attitudes.

“Usually, flowers are uplifting to people,” he said. “It’s something we thought would make people happy.”

For confidentiality reasons, Cashen and other florists don’t know the name or where the person lives, just if they are a woman or man, so they can create a bouquet that suits them. Cashen said they use flowers that are in season during the time of order.

According to Kotajarvi, “Petals for Patients” is meant to bring joy to patients, noting the launch of this program has been exciting.

“We are thrilled not only for the generosity of Wickert Floral in helping us launch this program, but for the joy it will bring to our patients,” she said. “Flowers are a wonderful way to say we are thinking of you.”

The idea for the flower program was brought to Kotajarvi by former OSF Medical Director Dr. Ronald Bisset last year, when he saw an article about a similar program in Oregon.

In deciding which florist to chose, Kotajarvi said Wickert was a natural choice because of Cashen’s support with the “No One Dies Alone” (NODA) program, where volunteers sit with hospice patients in their final hours.

In addition to the flowers, Hospice Volunteer Judy Djerf creates personal cards to with each bouquet. Kotajarvi explained Djerf creates the cards to go with each situation of birthday, anniversary, or other special day for the floral arrangment.

In the future, Kotajarvi said if the census grows, they would like to invite other businesses to join in on the project.

Cashen said he hopes the bouquets “put a smile on their faces” and brings them comfort in a time when they need it the most.

“It’s always nice to have fresh flowers out,” he said.