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Mighty Daffodil Packs a Powerful Punch Since 1957

By on April 12, 2017
Cancer survivor Japji Bhullar, 17, presents Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Health Minister Jane Philpott with daffodil bouquets to launch the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month. Learn more at cancer.ca/daffodil

Cancer survivor Japji Bhullar, 17, presents Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Health Minister Jane Philpott with daffodil bouquets to launch the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month. Learn more at cancer.ca/daffodil.

This April the Canadian Cancer Society marks its 60th Daffodil Month by rallying Canadians to show their support for people living with cancer and honour those who have died by wearing a daffodil pin or buying fresh daffodils. Money raised through flower and pin sales during Daffodil Month funds critical cancer research, education and advocacy initiatives as well as compassionate support programs across the country. 

Volunteers will be hitting the streets in communities across Canada, canvassing door to door, selling pins and fresh cut daffodils and encouraging the public to give generously. In Ontario, you can buy fresh daffodils at affiliate stores from April 17-May 4 while supplies last.  Volunteers will be at various locations in the community selling pins throughout the month from April 19-23 and April 26-30.

Cyndy Pearson, 70, of Ottawa has been volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society for more than 50 years. “When I was 15, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatment in the 1960s is not what it’s like today. She was in so much pain and died a year later. I promised I would do what I could to make life better for someone else and haven’t stopped volunteering since,” says Cyndy. “I never knew when I started how many times my life would be touched by cancer, including my youngest daughter who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 28.”

Bill Pratt, 89, of Tillsonburg, Ontario has clocked 57 years of volunteer service for the Canadian Cancer Society. “My wife, Marion, who died last May, was also a CCS volunteer for over 50 years, mainly canvassing and selling daffodils,” says Bill. The couple lost their 7-year-old daughter to cancer. “Money raised by volunteers is vital to the work CCS does and makes a real impact that benefits real people.”  

Pearson and Pratt are just two of the many long-serving volunteers across the country who have been involved for many decades. Volunteer efforts like theirs, along with the support of donors, have helped increase the cancer survival rate from about 35% in the 1950s to over 60% today. 

“We are deeply grateful for the support Canadians have shown us over the last six decades during Daffodil Month,” says Patricia McLaughlin, manager, community campaigns, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario. “Because of our donors and the tireless work of our volunteers and staff, we have been able to make significant progress in the fight against cancer. But the reality is, the number of cancer cases in Canada is expected to increase by nearly 40% by 2030, increasing the demand for research and services. Now more than ever, we need Canadians’ generous support.”

Ontario celebrates 60 years of Daffodil Month with tens of thousands of volunteers

Six Decades of Progress

Thanks to supporters and donors during Daffodil Month, these are a few of the achievements that have been possible:

  • In the 1950s, about half of Canadians smoked, compared to about 18% today. At the time, you could smoke everywhere – on planes, in classrooms and even in doctors’ offices. Today, thanks to advocacy work led by CCS, it is prohibited to smoke in public places and workplaces, and health warnings must cover 75% of cigarette packages.
  • Since 1987, CCS has partnered with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada to produce the annual cancerstatistics report, which is designed to support health professionals and policy-makers in their work. It has helped increase awareness about all forms of cancer and advocate for policy changes, such as banning indoor tanning for youth and providing the HPV vaccination for boys.
  • In 1996, CCS launched the toll-free Cancer Information Service (CIS). Since then, CIS has answered well over a million enquiries from people who have cancer, their families and others.
  • Since 1957, CCS donors have funded $1.4 billion in cancer research, including supporting these projects:




    • In 1958, Dr Robert Noble and Dr Charles Beer discovered the drug vinblastine, which has dramatically improved the outcomes for children diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Today 93% of children diagnosed with this cancer will live at least five years after their diagnosis. 
    • In the 1970s, Dr Victor Ling discovered that the p-glycoprotein prevented chemotherapy drugs from working on cancer cells. His findings changed the development of treatments as researchers began to investigate how to overcome this resistance and improve survival rates for patients.
    • Four sisters from Portage-la-Prairie, Manitoba, participated in a clinical trial group to test the drug exemestane after their mother died of breast cancer in 1983. In 2011, the trial found that the drug reduces the risk of breast cancer by 65% for women at increased risk of breast cancer. 
    • In the early 1990s, Dr Eduardo Franco contributed to the groundbreaking finding that the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer. This discovery led to the development of the HPV vaccine, which is helping prevent cervical cancer for many thousands of women worldwide. HPV also causes certain mouth, throat and genital cancers. 

Visit cancer.ca/daffodil

Did you know…? Daffodil history at the Canadian Cancer Society.

  • In the 1950s, the daffodil became the symbol for the Canadian Cancer Society almost by accident. In Toronto, afternoon TREND teas were held to raise money for cancer (TREND stood for treatment, research, education, needs of patients, and diagnosis). One April a group of tea volunteers decorated the tables with daffodils, which created a cheery, hopeful atmosphere. After this, these gatherings became known as Daffodil Teas.
  • In 1954, Lady Eaton hosted a Daffodil Tea at the Eaton’s store in Toronto, which was attended by 700 hundred women.
  • It was in 1957 that daffodils were first sold as an official fundraiser in support of the Canadian Cancer Society. An anonymous donor paid for 5,000 blooms to be flown in from BC where the growing season starts earlier than in Ontario. Daffodil sales raised more than $1,200 in the first year.
  • Daffodil sales quickly spread across the country and the daffodil was adopted as a symbol by other cancer organizations, including the American Cancer Society, Cancer Council Australia and the Irish Cancer Society.
  • In Toronto, a large Daffodil Parade ran for 26 years, featuring floats, bands, clowns and celebrities. Similar parades where conducted in Montreal and Quebec City.

About the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. Make your gift today at www.cancer.ca

939-3333 (TTY: 1-866-786-3934).

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