A medical student at VCU School of Medicine founded The Simple Sunflower, a service that delivers flowers – regifted from weddings – to patients at VCU Medical Center.
Eleanor Love found a way to make wedding bouquets special twice — not just for the couple’s family and friends on the wedding day, but for patients in hospital beds.
The idea for The Simple Sunflower came after Love spent a year working in a flower shop part time while volunteering with the National Health Corps in Philadelphia providing health care to underserved populations.
“I think that’s where my love of flowers and the idea that I could actually make a beautiful arrangement stemmed,” Love said.
After she started medical school the following year, she heard about the success of a flower regifting program on the west coast and thought it was a wonderful idea.
So, she started working to create her own. She connected with local wedding venues and coordinated with VCU Health Volunteer Services to start picking up flowers and creating new bouquets.
In July 2019, the first deliveries of bouquets that Love and fellow volunteers repurposed through The Simple Sunflower made their way to patients.
“One of the challenges of being a medical student is that it can be very difficult to contribute to the care team,” Love told The Washington Post. “You are there primarily as a learner, but you want to make an impact on your patients, and you don’t have the same knowledge as physicians.”
On top of offering a form of human connection through the gift of giving flowers, studies have shown that flowers have a positive impact on health outcomes for hospitalized patients. Based on the research, improving patients’ outcomes “is perhaps the most important impact I hope to make through The Simple Sunflower,” Love told VCU Exposure.
“Flowers have been shown to improve healing and rates of recovery from surgery,” Love said. “They’ve been shown, of course, to improve people’s mental health and to lift people’s spirits.”
Though the flowers are meant to brighten the day of patients, the volunteers enjoy it, too.
“Volunteers have been thrilled to be able to deliver to patients an unexpected gift that will brighten their day,” said Amanda Landes, director of VCU Health Volunteer Services. “And people seem to enjoy the story of how The Simple Sunflower came to be and that it is making good use of something that otherwise would be discarded.”