Daffodil Days ending

The daffodil has long been a sign of spring, and, thanks to the American Cancer Society, it’s also long been a symbol of hope for cancer patients.

But unlike the perennial’s annual bloom, this will be the Daffodil Days campaign’s last year.

East Central Division income development representative Lisa Koncz said the daffodil sale was the American Cancer Society’s longest-running campaign, and several factors led to the national office’s decision to discontinue it.

She said only three of 15 divisions still participated, and even though Pennsylvania was the most successful state – with Blair County coming in second in the country only to Pittsburgh – organization executives thought it would be better to function as one unit and work on shared projects, like Relay For Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

“I’d rather sunset [the program] in its glory,” she said, adding that Blair County raised $148,000 last year, with $135,000 coming from school efforts.

One of the hardest hit participants is Foot of Ten Elementary’s teachers and students, who have been ranked No. 1 nationally among school sellers for years.

Fifth-grade teacher and Daffodil Days coordinator Linda Jodon said Foot of Ten has raised more than $200,000 since it began participating in the campaign about 20 years ago.

“Right now, I’m just kind of in a state of shock,” she said. “We’re all going to feel a great loss because we always look forward to this, year after year.”

Jodon said teachers and parents often begin planning for the next year as soon as the campaign ends. In 2012, Foot of Ten participants sold around 29,000 flowers and raised almost $32,000.

She said the campaign is a group effort, with students incentivized to sell so they can be rewarded with ribbons, a pizza party or a field trip and with teachers willing to “put themselves out there in a silly way” for their students.

This year teachers banded together to perform their version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s chart-topping, and often-parodied, song “Call Me Maybe,” which they titled “Sell Me Baby.” Teachers adorned in yellow gathered around microphones at an assembly, singing: “And all the other schools try to chase me, we’re daffodils, so sell me baby.”

She said this year’s goal is 20,000 daffodils, although she expects the students will surpass it like they do every year and retain the Bob Bundy Trophy, awarded to the top-selling Blair County school in memory of the Foot of Ten teacher who was involved in Daffodil Days for years before he died of cancer more than a decade ago.

School campaign coordinator Tom Bradley said he’s sad to see the program ending, but he thought a lot of projects run their course.

“My attitude is that it’s nice that we’re ending this on a high note,” Bradley said, because less participation from other states and other factors would have led to a price increase eventually.

Over time, the labor-intensive program may have become cost prohibitive, Koncz said.

Bradley said he’s glad he stayed with the program as long as he did, and schools in the area were able to be so successful.

Amy Geer, the campaign’s logistics coordinator, said after 20 years’ work, she’d have preferred the campaign end “after they made a major step in finding a cure for cancer” but said she’s going to keep working with the American Cancer Society on other projects.

Koncz said with this being the last year, participants can help the program “go out with a bang,” and she hopes to hold a celebration at its end.

Jodon said students and teachers always will have memories they’d made.

“It’s always going to be in our thoughts,” Jodon said, adding that the school also has a daffodil garden. “And I’m sure we’ll come up with some other fundraiser.”

The final campaign is to begin March 18 and end March 24.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.