Blossoms of Hope Cherrybration festivities begin

Howard County Times

Blossoms of Hope's annual Cherrybration Days kicks-off on March 31 and continues throughout the month of April and into the months of May and June with a variety of events planned by the non-profit in an effort to raise funds for the Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center in Columbia.

"It's an exciting time at Blossoms of Hope and throughout Howard County," said Lene McCollum, administrative coordinator for Blossoms. "We have something for everyone."

The kick-off event on March 31 in the lobby of the Medical Pavilion of Howard County will feature live music and food from three restaurants participating in Pink Plates — a month-long event beginning April 1 that features"pink plate" specials at 18 participating restaurants.

"We've been doing Pink Plates here eight years or longer," said Jayme Bohn, event coordinator at Baldwin's Station Restaurant in Sykesville. "Lunch and dinner, we always get a nice response. It's just a great cause."

Baldwin's Pink Plates specials will include pink salmon, pink crush for a dink and a pink crème brulee, Bohn said. The Iron Bridge Wine Co., in Columbia, will feature different Pink Plate specials throughout the month, according to Vince Culotta, general manager.

"Our chef comes up with a couple different things and we'll put the Blossoms of Hope logo by them," Culotta said.

"We definitely always keep Blossoms of Hope at the top of the list of organizations we are going to support," Culotta said. "For us, it's about supporting just a fabulous organization."

To add a little competition and fun among the restaurants, the restaurant that donates the most proceeds receives the original "Pink Plate,' according to Joe Barbera, Blossoms of Hope board of director chair and co-owner of AIDA Bistro and Wine Bar in Columbia.

"It's hanging on our wall," Barbera said, with pride, of the plate that the restaurant has won three times within the last four years. "Pink Plates is a great opportunity for restaurants to show support."

Now 12 years old, Blossoms of Hope's mission is two-fold, according to McCollum: to beautify Howard County with cherry trees and native dogwood trees; and to collect donations through events to distribute to local charities.

"We wanted to beautify the county," Barbera said, adding that Washington, D.C.'s cherry blossom festival was the inspiration. "We now have 18 groves [of cherry trees] all over the county."

Over $275,000 has been donated to Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center since its beginnings in 2004, Barbera said. Most of the fundraising events take place during Cherrybration, which began in 2007.

"When the blossoms start blooming and spring is in the air, there are a ton of things to do," Barbera said.

After the kick-off celebration, a Pretty in Pink Ladies Champagne Luncheon will take place on April 1 at Turf Vallley. The event will include over 50 vendors, lunch and a runway fashion show that will feature 25 models including Yumi Hogan, the first lady of Maryland, who will be modeling on behalf of her husband, Governor Larry Hogan, who has completed chemotherapy for stage 3 non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

"It is a really emotional fashion show," McCollum said. "You see women in all different stages [of cancer] , some are in recession, some in treatment."

For the adventurous, Terrapin Adventures will offer Cherrrybration Day on April 24, with a portion of its proceeds from the day being donated to Blossoms. Everyone will also receive a piece of cherry pie when they visit Terrapin Adventures that day, McCollum said.

Other events range from children's activities at Clark's Elioak Farm to learning about whiskey at a meet and greet with folks from the Lost Ark Distilling company. Golf, a 5K and even a juried art show are other events planned.

One of the largest events, the Power of the Purse, actually takes place in June. The event features donated purses collected at over 37 drop-off points around the county that are cleaned and either put in a general sale or filled with items for an auction, McCollum said.

"Last year we collected 1,800 purses. This year, expectations are for 2,000," McCollum said. "It's a lot fun. It's a great mother daughter event or for you and your girlfriends."

While the majority of Blossoms fundraising events take place during Cherrybration, Barbera said the nonprofit is looking into events for the for the summer and fall in order to raise more funds to donate to other organizations without taking away from its committment to the cancer research center.

"We are growing the organization," Barbera said. "If we make the pie bigger, than we can look at other options."

For now, Blossoms is busy with preparations for Cherrybration.

"This time of year, we're really, really busy," McCollum said. "It's a fun busy."

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