RICHMOND, Va. -- Having to stay in the hospital can really take a toll on patients, but Eleanor Love is brightening up the rooms at VCU Medical Center with beautiful flower arrangements.
During her time as a VCU medical student in 2019, Love wanted to find a way to give back to her patients.
"At that stage of my medical training, I didn't have a lot of medical knowledge," Love explained.
But she did know a lot about flowers, since she worked in a flower shop before heading off to medical school.
"It was a little bit on my radar, and I thought why don't we bring the flowers that would normally be discarded after a wedding to our patients at the hospital," Love noted.
Over the past two years, she and her team of volunteers -- known now as The Simple Sunflower -- have visited dozens of wedding venues after the big day to re-purpose arrangements into more than 700 bouquets for struggling patients.
“It helps lift the patients' spirits, and it helps calm them down," said Love. "It reminds them that someone is thinking of them and caring for them, and it takes their mind off their illness for a couple moments.”
Brides and grooms, like Haleigh and Joe McCahon, make The Simple Sunflower’s effort possible. The University of Richmond grads got married at The Commonwealth Club in Downtown Richmond last month.
Florist Kim Moody of Kim Moody Design, helped the couple donate their flowers, which created more than two dozen bouquets for VCU patients.
"Joe and I are both in the healthcare field," Haleigh explained. "And we've seen firsthand how simple acts of kindness like what The Simple Sunflower does can really go a long way. We feel really grateful that we were able to share something from one of the happiest days of our lives to help brighten up their hospital stay."
There are dozens more patients who can use a little hope, so Love's work continues. She just raised enough money to apply for nonprofit status.
"I'm thrilled to have had the support from so many volunteers who have really made this happen and who have really helped us take off because without them and the partnerships that we've established with community businesses, like the florists and the venues that we work with, as well as the brides and grooms who donate their flowers, we wouldn't be where we are today," Love explained.
Love is currently in her first year of residency training at Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News, but she still comes back to Richmond to run The Simple Sunflower and train new volunteers.
If you're getting married in Richmond and would like to donate your flowers, or if you're interested in volunteering with The Simple Sunflower, you can find more information here.