Daffodil Day Brings Smiles with Spring

For 56 years the Cecilton Lions in Maryland have marked the arrival of spring with Operation Daffodil.

Their only mission: To make people smile.

Rose Miller, making a bouquet with the volunteers, has helped her husband, Lion Jack Miller, run Operation Daffodil, for 20 years.

For the last 20 of those 56 years, Rose Miller and her husband, Cecilton Lion Jack Miller, have headed the project, monitoring the spring weather and driving down to the valley in Earleville, near Cecilton, where the daffodils dance in the wild, covering the land with a blanket of yellow.

When the Millers put out the news that it’s time, the valley is in bloom, the Lions, their friends, and a growing number of the community’s kind-hearted come to join in the fun of picking the flowers, then assembling bouquets to give way.

“It all depends on Mother Nature’s timing,” says Rose Miller. “We’ve done this in snow, rain, bitter cold, wind … but this year it was beautiful.”

This year it was mid-March when the flowers bloomed. About 150 Saturday morning volunteers picked 20,000 to 30,000 daffodils, laying them on cardboard trays to take to a barn where more volunteers arranged them in bouquets.

Lion Jen Haley, who volunteered this year to take over for the retiring Millers, says 882 bouquets of 30 to 40 daffodils were delivered to the homebound, hospital patients, and nursing and retirement home residents in the area this spring.

The daffodils grow on land owned by the Upp family. Because this stretch of woodland is not farmed and remains undisturbed year after year, the plants keep spreading. No one knows for certain how they were started there, but Johnny Upp says they suspect someone planted a few in an old cemetery nearby and they grew. And they grew. Or maybe the birds and the wind took the seed, spreading the flowers through the wetlands near the Sassafras River.

“We don’t really know but we do know that Mother Nature takes care of it,” says Miller.

“People can come and go as they wish, but we don’t give anybody a chance to sit down,” says Rose Miller.

Organizing Operation Daffodil starts at least a month in advance with getting the plastic cups for vases, Lion decals, and vermiculite and sand to put in the bottom of the cups to keep them from tipping.

Lions Jen Haley and Jack Miller on Daffodil Day.

Hot dogs, hot chocolate, coffee, and sweets for volunteers are the other important components.

“People can come and go as they wish, but we don’t give anybody a chance to sit down,” says Rose Miller. “We work from six o’clock until noon. You stand next to somebody, and you talk, and you meet a lot of people. It’s really fun and it’s very rewarding.”

Upp, whose father, the late John Upp, is credited with turning the small neighborly effort of sharing bouquets into a Lions club project 56 years ago, gives the volunteers rides down to the valley on his tractor trailer, and then back, laden with flowers when they’re done.

“When I first became a [Lion] member I had no idea there were so many little pieces to this puzzle,” says Haley. “It’s fun. You never have the same experience twice.”

At Calvert Manor, a long-term care facility in nearby Rising Sun, Activities Director Taylor Racine says their residents love daffodil day. Volunteers this year delivered 136 bouquets to the home, giving each resident an individual burst of spring.

“The staff appreciate it too,” says Racine. “It’s wonderful because it puts a smile on everyone’s face.”