In 2003, Howard County’s Office of Tourism & Promotion proposed a tree planting program with Kwanzan cherry trees that would beautify the county’s attractions, its parks, and its roadways. The project was inspired by Washington D.C.’s annual Tidal Basin spectacular and was designed to capitalize on the blossom-mania that descends each year in the neighboring Capital. The goal was 1,000 cherry trees in the ground at select locations in five years which was reached within two years.
Equally important as beautification was the hope to give back to the community in a meaningful way. It was decided that the trees would be used to raise awareness of breast cancer prevention each spring and to raise money to benefit those within the community coping with cancer and facing other life-changing experiences.
The concept was taken to former Howard County Executive Jim Robey who agreed to champion the project and also provide resources from within both the Department of Recreation & Parks and The Department of Public Works to kick start the initiative on public lands. And thus, Blossoms of Hope… the Howard County Cherry Tree Project began. In addition, the county gave Tourism $75,000 a year earmarked for Blossoms of Hope.
In 2004, a handful of individuals stepped forward to make the dream of Blossoms of Hope a reality. The Founders Grove, located in Centennial Park was the first planting of 20 trees. More than 17 years later, approximately 2,700 Blossoms of Hope trees are now blossoming across Howard County, and more than $650,000 has been contributed to the community, with the majority going to Howard Hospital Foundation earmarked for Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center. Over the years, other organizations have been recipients of BOH’s donations, but the board has agreed to always give at least $30,000 to the Cancer Resource Center.
In its early years, there were many community events that took place in parks, at Columbia’s lakefront, and in Old Ellicott City. One such event was the Lanterns of Hope Parade held in Centennial Park in its first year and then at Columbia’s lakefront in following years. Lanterns were made by people in the community and children at the public library. Community organizations and companies also participated in what became April’s Cherrybration Days, including Clark’s Elioak Farm, Terrapin Adventures, restaurants through Pink Plates (similar to restaurant week), and more. BOH also participated in the Cherry Blossom parade in Washington, D.C. and formed a friendship with the Japanese Embassy.
Fundraising events have been added over the years to help raise funds to sustain itself and to distribute to the community, including Power of the Purse; Pretty in Pink (a Turf Valley Resort event benefiting BOH); Beer, Bourbon and Bags; and Pink Greens. Blossoms of Hope also has responded quickly to unique community needs. In 2018, in just three weeks, Blossoms of Hope sponsored a gala raising more than $24,000 for Ellicott City flood victims. In 2020, due to COVID-19, the Scavenger Hunt and The Santa Project (TSP) were founded. TSP saw Santa and his elves visiting the homes of more than 2,300 children in Howard County and the surrounding area in its first year.
Same Name But a New Entity
At the start of 2014, it was brought to the attention of the Blossoms of Hope board that BOH was not in compliance with its 501(c)(3) designation. Howard County’s Office of Tourism & Promotion, a 501(c)(6), could not have a 501(c)(3) within its organization. The choice was to become a separate entity or to lose the nonprofit designation and become a Tourism program. The Blossoms of Hope board, after several months of discussion, decided to separate from the Office of Tourism and try to make it on its own. However, the county agreed to fund BOH for three years with a reduced amount each year ending with $35,000 in the third year. The funds were funneled through the Office of Tourism but earmarked for Blossoms of Hope. From that point, BOH has considered the Office of Tourism as its “parent” and has continued to work with Tourism (now called Visit Howard County) with a ex-officio seat on the board held for a Tourism representative.
A transition team was formed consisting of: Joe Barbera, Pete Mangione, Becky Mangus, Mimi O’Donnell, Rachelina Bonacci, Michelle Healy, and Anne Towne who created the documents and structure needed for the new organization. That was completed the first quarter of 2014.
In the spring of 2014, in a room in the basement of Turf Valley, the Blossoms’ executive board including Pete Mangione and Becky Mangus discussed who would be chair of the board. Joe Barbera’s name was brought up and all agreed he would be the perfect choice. Joe had been chair of the Office of Tourism, had been on the Blossoms’ board for two years, and served chair of the transition team. Becky had his phone number in her contact list and called him on the spot. Putting him on speaker, he was asked if he would be the Blossoms of Hope’s board chair and after a stutter or two, he said “yes.”
Shaping an Organization
For the next three years, the board spent a good amount of time working on the organization itself including the mission, the look of the programs, and the staff and board. Since that time, sponsorships and events have replaced the county’s funding. Programs have expanded from only taking place in April to happening year-round. Donations are distributed to more organizations than the Cancer Resource Center (with funding still being earmarked for the Center each year).
In 2016, the board held a retreat to strategize board structure and recruitment, causes, and redefine the mission statement, changing the words “support for The Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center” to “support for our community; cancer-related and other causes.” This broadened Blossoms’ reach in the community and in 2022, pillars were created representing areas we support.
The logo was updated in 2019 and the website was redesigned in 2021. Blossoms of Hope and The Santa Project were trademarked in May 2021.
- February – The Santa Project Happy Hour was held.
- April – Volunteer thank you reception. Donations of $35,000 to the Cancer Resource Center, $5,000 to Gilchrist of Howard County, $10,000 to Zaching Against Cancer (plus $4,385 for partnering with The Santa Project), $2,500 to Arc of Howard County, $1,000 to Bryanna’s Love, $2,500 to Camp Attaway, $1,000 to First Generation College Bound, $1,000 to Ohana of Howard County, and $1,000 to Respite Retreats.
- May - Pink Greens returned.
- May - Blossoms at the Ballpark held at Camden Yards. Attendees got to meet Trey Mancini.
- September - “3700 Blossoms by 2025” program initiated.
- Received trademark for Blossoms of Hope and The Santa Project.
- April– The Scavenger Hunt was initiated to help get people out of their homes and to highlight some of the Blossom of Hope groves in the county.
- May - Pink Greens returned with 138 golfers and a Maryland Theme.
- June – Power of the Purse v.2.1 was initiated using a lottery version.
- August – PGA event fundraiser.
- September - Appreciation event held. Volunteer/Hall of Fame recipient Susie Davis.
- Seeds of Hope, a BOH program, debuted.
- October - Blossoms forms partnership with Zaching Against Cancer to expand The Santa Project which was held again in December.
- All traditional events were canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19
- Board pivots to create new ways to raise funds.
- Spring appeal raised over $1,400 to give directly to HHF Caregivers Fund.
- September –The Blossoms of Hope Heroes Grove at Howard County General Hospital was created with 12 Kwanzan cherry trees and three benches dedicated to the front-line workers at the hospital.
- October - in partnership with Howard Hughes and Howard EcoWorks, planted an additional 100 trees in downtown Columbia and Merriweather District.
- October – Contribution to the Cancer Resource Center of $30,000 and $5,000 to Gilchrist of Howard County.
- December– The Santa Project was initiated in response to COVID-19 as a way to bring Santa and his elves to children in Howard County and the surrounding area. More than 2,300 children had Santa arrive at their homes over three weekends in December.
- April - Cherrybration kickoff with dedication of two trees Blossoms of Hope Ex Officio Board Member Janet Robey and former Police Chief and County Executive Jim Robey.
- Cherrybration: Pretty in Pink, Pink Greens, Power of the Purse, and Beer, Bourbon and Bags.
- May - 100 trees were planted in the Merriweather Post District with Howard Hughes. Blossoms gives presentation to select group of Wilde Lake High School students who then help plant trees.
- October – $30,000 contribution made to the Cancer Resource Center and $5,000 to Gilchrist of Howard County. Blossoms adds University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center to list of beneficiaries with $2,000 donation.
- Pam Long was Volunteer of the Year.
- Cherrybration: Pink Greens, Pretty in PInk, and Power of the Purse.
- EC Pops – pull money off the ceiling.
- First Volunteer of the Year was Chrysta Giangrandi
- Second year participating in Brackets For Good making it to the Finals.
- May - 100 trees were planted in the Merriweather Post District with Howard Hughes.
- June – EC Emerges event at Turf Valley to raise money for the victims of the second flood in Old Ellicott City.
- October – Volunteer Appreciation Happy Hour held and contribution made to the Cancer Resource Center of $30,000. Also donated $24,000 to Ellicott City Partnership to help the flood victims at the Volunteer Celebration. Blossoms extended donations to include $5,000 to Gilchrist of Howard County.
- Retreat held, lead by Anne Towne who helped with fundraising, development and infrastructure.
- November – Inaugural Beer, Bourbon and Bags.
- April – Cherrybration: Clark’s Elioak Farm, Pink Greens, Pretty in Pink and Power of the Purse
- Participated in state-wide competition for non-profits, Brackets For Good, a competition to raise more money than our opponent in a bracket-style tournament.
- October – Volunteer Appreciation Happy Hour held and contribution made to the Cancer Resource Center of $30,000.
- April – Cherrybration: Clark’s Elliot Farm, Pink Plates, Pink Greens, Pretty in Pink and Power of the Purse
- June – Held a Blossoms for Jobs event at AIDA Bistro and Wine Bar to connect employers and employees impacted by the Ellicott City Flood.
- October – Volunteer Appreciation Happy Hour held and contributions made to the Cancer Resource Center of $28,000 and to Ellicott City Partnership of $8,000.
- November – Retreat held, established current mission statement. Lead by Judy Smith who volunteered to work on BOH infrastructure through August 2017.
• October – Contribution to the Cancer Resource Center of $27,500.
- Blossoms of Hope becomes a separate entity from HC Office of Tourism.
- May – Joe Barbera is elected chair of the board.
- Blossoms of Hope celebrates its 10th anniversary with a celebration in partnership with Live! Casino.
- October – contribution made to the Cancer Resource Center of $25,940.
- April -
- The three Yoshino Cherry trees were planted at Lake Kittamaqundi in Columbia.
- An additional 100 trees were planted at attractions in Howard County.
- Cherrybration Days held. Pink Plates, Pretty in Pink Fashion Show, Pink Greens Golf Classic, Art Gallery Show, Terrapin Adventures, Clark’s Elioak Farm.
- Moved Power of the Purse to June.
- October – contribution made to the Cancer Resource Center of $45,000.
• Power of the Purse debuts.
- The National Cherry Blossoms Festival gifted three Yoshino Cherry tree saplings to Howard County to commemorate the centennial of the original Gift of Trees to Washington D.C. from Tokyo. The saplings were grown from the original tree stock now growing at the Tidal Basin in the Nation’s Capital.
- October – contribution made to the Cancer Resource Center of $35,000.
- April –
- Princess Cherrybella debut.
- Think Pink, Hills of Milltown 5K Challenge and Cherrybration Celebration Weekend.
- An Enchanted Cherrybration is held at Clark’s Elioak Farms.
- Columbia Art Center holds Cupcakes for Claudia gallery show.
- Fourth annual Lanterns of Hope Parade held at Meadowbrook Park in Ellicott City.
- October – sixth contribution made to the Cancer Resource Center of $32,020.
- April – April officially proclaimed Cherrybration Days in Howard County.
- Pink Plate Specials available at area restaurants.
- Turf Valley presents first Pink Greens Golf Classic.
- Inaugural running of Blossoms of Hope Half Marathon.
- Pink Panes premiere on Main Street in Ellicott City.
- October – Fifth contribution to the Cancer Resource Center of $15,232.
- April –
- Pink Plate Specials premiere on menus at area restaurants.
- First Pretty in Pink Luncheon & Fashion Show held at Turf Valley.
- Second Cherrybration/Lanterns of Hope Parade held at Centennial Park.
- October – Fourth contribution to the Cancer Resource Center of $14,028.
- February – Executive Director hired
- April – Inaugural Cherrybration Festival held at Centennial Park.
- Blossoms of Hope participates in Washington D.C.’s National Cherry Blossoms Parade.
- July – Third contribution made to the Cancer Resource Center of $22,275.
- April –
- Second Centennial Park Grove dedicated.
- Residential tree sales begin.
- September –
- Goal of 1,000 planted trees reached.
- Plans for an annual spring festival (Cherrybration) announced.
- October – Second contribution to the Cancer Resource Center of approx. $17,000.
- January – Howard County Tourism & Promotion Executive Board agrees to create separate nonprofit.
- April –
- Blossoms of Hope Incorporates.
- Founder’s Grove Dedication.
- Phase one public land groves planted.
- First contribution made to Claudia Mayer/Tina Broccolino Cancer Resource Center of $10,000
- June – Separate non-profit established.
- September – Corporate planting program kicks off: Turf Valley, Crab Shanty & Merriweather first participants.
- September – The project was officially announced by former County Executive, Jim Robey.
- December – Founder’s Grove planted in Centennial Park.