Plantings of Hope And Remembrance -April/May 2013

by: Lindsay Pykosz

photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger & Jim Powers

Over a million DAFFODILS have been planted on Nantucket over the past several decades, and each year the number of yellow, orange and white flowers has multiplied, especially along Milestone Road, in Sconset and Polpis.

But many don’t know how these daffodils got here, or how, year after year, for the past seven years, a fundraising committee for Palliative and Supportive Care of Nantucket, formerly Hospice Care of Nantucket, has found a way to give back to the island in a unique way while simultaneously keeping it colorful and beautiful.

It all began in 1974 when the late Jean MacAusland, Nantucket summer resident and publisher of Gourmet magazine, inspired a Garden Club tradition of planting daffodils up and down Milestone Road from Monomoy to Sconset. Palliative and Supportive Care picked up the tradition in 2007 by seeking donations at its annual Dreamcatcher Dinner and Auction held every June to honor its volunteers through the planting efforts.

Each year, steering-committee members ask several island landscape companies to help keep the custom alive with the help of students from the Nantucket New School as part of its community-service requirement.

This year, the Dreamcatcher steering committee hopes to plant another 3,000 bulbs with the help of Champoux Landscaping and J&M Landscape services, the two companies that orchestrate and organize the planting each November before Thanksgiving.

The reason behind the annual initiative is twofold: To enhance the island’s spring landscape and plant the flowers in honor of Palliative and Supportive Care’s staff, volunteers and caregivers who work around the clock to care for the patients who need hospice care on Nantucket.
This community partnership allows those who are facing life-threatening illnesses or need relief from physical, emotional or spiritual pain to get the help they need for themselves and their families. It also allows supportive and palliative care to be integrated into the practices of the island’s general health-care providers.

“All the services through Palliative and Supportive Care are provided free of charge, so we need to raise money every year to keep it running,” said Charlene Thurston, PASCON program director and nurse practitioner. “The way we raise money is through our regular, annual, major event in June called the Dreamcatcher Dinner and Auction where we ask for donations to go toward the daffodil plantings.”

Thousands of bulbs are planted along those Nantucket roads and streets along the annual Nantucket Daffodil Festival classic-car parade route. The cars depart from Main Street, take a right on Centre Street, then head down Broad Street onto South Water before returning to Main Street and taking a left onto Orange. They then head out Milestone Road to Sconset, where the cars are staged along Main Street for an upscale tailgate party. Each year, visitors and islanders alike line the streets to catch a glimpse of the cars decorated with an abundance of daffodils.

The parade, too, was the brainchild of MacAusland and the late H. Flint Ranney, who discussed the idea over lunch.

Ranney led the way that first year in a 1927 American LaFrance ladder truck that he bought for $510 in 1960. Joining him on his drive out to Sconset was MacAusland’s 1966 Rolls Royce Vanden Plas and selectman Mike Todd’s Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

There were only 18 cars in the first parade, and the picnics in Sconset that have become a tradition for many came later. With the tailgate came more people than the Nantucket Garden Club – which organized the first few parades – could handle, so tit eventually turned the event over to the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce to run.

The parade has grown by leaps and bounds, and annually features at least 100 cars. The vintage automobiles range from classic Corvettes to Studebakers, Model T Fords to muscle cars, all of which will be staged up and down the historic cobblestone Main Street to compete for a series of awards such as “Most Authentic” and “Most Creative,” among others, before heading to Sconset.

Just as the parade has become a tradition for many, so has the daffodil-planting. The event attracts people young and old who all spend the day working together for a common cause.

“There’s kind of a distant connection between daffodils and Palliative and Supportive Care, with hope and renewal,” said Carrie Riden, executive director of PASCON. “The New School kids are great and come out with their parents and siblings. Little kids are doing it. There’s probably about 20 kids from the New School who come and everyone works together as a team.”

Just as the daffodils serve as signs of hope and renewal – more than $50,000 has been raised in recent years to plant over 50,000 daffodils – PASCON gives hope to patients with life-threatening illnesses and their families by giving them support to deal with the physical, emotional and spiritual side-effects of their illness.

“Palliative and Supportive Care is a program of supportive services for people with any stage of a life-threatening illness and those who love them,” Thurston said. “We have services available for people, from nurses through care or through advancing illness and through death and bereavement. We used to be Hospice Care of Nantucket. The reason we changed our name from Hospice was because we wanted to make sure people realize they could access our services at any time during that trajectory of illness. We want people to know we’re here for them and can offer education, a lot of counseling and a lot of support.”

Lindsay Pykosz is a staff writer for The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.

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