Before and After the Storm, Daffodil Project Touched Many

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The transformation among children involved in this fall’s Daffodil Project plantings at New York City Housing Authority community centers was striking.
Early on, we noticed a pattern.  As children gathered for planting instructions outside their community centers, many had their heads down. Handshakes were limp, and hellos were mumbled. But as the process was explained, gloves put on, and bulbs and trowels passed out, the spark of inquisitive energy became palpable. The kids became alive with questions, and smiles appeared almost to a person.

They ran between the plots with their tools and bulbs, giggling, eager not only to plant their bulbs but to distribute them perfectly in each plot – spaces they are guaranteed to remember as their own come springtime, with a sense of accomplishment.

They asked to dig new holes and plant more bulbs wherever there was room. And when they came across their first earthworm, forget about it – pure, unadulterated glee spread among the young planters like wildfire as everyone gathered to observe the little creature before carefully placing it back in the soil.

Before we knew it, our time together was up, but they wanted to know: would we return to share the garden with them in springtime? They tapped us on the shoulder, or sometimes offered big hugs, to say thank you.

Those children have a story to tell about how the Daffodil Project touched their lives, as do the thousands of other volunteers who participate in the Project. Perhaps the story’s about a longstanding annual park planting, or a trip to one of our borough distributions, where somehow lugging a sack of 600 bulbs in rough red netting is always more fun than you expected. Or maybe it’s about taking the perfect picture for our photo contest.

While everyone’s story is unique, what those children felt – that sense of wonder, community pride and innocent ownership of their little plots of land, the satisfaction they feel from the simple act of planting a daffodil bulb in a small hole in a seemingly unnoticed corner of New York City – is the same for everyone.

This year, we focused on spreading that feeling to as many new audiences as we could, including through three new initiatives. We held a distribution and six youth plantings at New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments citywide, including two in Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy. We partnered with the Horticultural Society of New York City to line the Rikers Island visitor and juvenile detention center entrances with bulbs. And we joined with Common Cents, the nation’s largest children’s philanthropy program, to deliver Daffodil Project planting kits to 20 elementary schools citywide.

We had our highest demand for bulbs ever, in part thanks to our most ambitious outreach effort to date. We distributed free daffodil bulbs to nearly 700 individuals and neighborhood groups, and 3,000 kids participated in our school and NYCHA plantings. As a result, more than 250,000 new daffodils will bloom next spring, adding to the five million already planted over the past 12 years.

In our 2013 season, we’ll aim even higher. But what’s most important is what underlies all the numbers: those stories and small moments, those annual traditions and community gatherings – that feeling of connection to something both intimate and local but also so much bigger than any single person or neighborhood.

The Daffodil Project is generously supported by Con Edison, Ernst & Young,  the Greenacre Foundation and the New York City Council.

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