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The City Journals

Thousands of roses bring love to students

Apr 09, 2018 05:16PM ● By Jet Burnham

All 2126 students at Riverton HS received rose on Valentine's Day. (Kimberly Ruiz/RHS Yearbook)

When Tamara Bailie heard that Riverton High School’s Dance Company was selling roses to be delivered to students on Valentine’s Day, she ordered some for her daughter because she didn’t want her to feel left out. 

“Then I started thinking about what happens to the kids who are going to be left out,” said Bailie. “It was like a nudge from the universe—what if just this one time, we could make it so that everyone felt included?”

  She started with a simple Facebook post, inviting friends and neighbors to buy a rose for a student. Over the next 10 days, nearly150 people from across the country donated enough money to provide roses to every single student in the school.

“I thought it’d be great to just get 100 more roses into the school and then to have it be by the end of the day over 2,000 roses,” Bailie said. “It was really good for my heart to see that.”

The students were touched that someone cared enough about them to send them a rose. And they started to share that feeling with others. Before they realized everyone would get one, students who had received roses were giving theirs to those who didn’t have one. 

Bailie noted that the atmosphere created was a huge contrast to what was happening at the very same time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

“Here we were trying to fill this high school with love and roses and good energy, and, at the very same time, this high school in Florida was filled with terror and gunshots and tears,” said Bailie. “The whole reason we wanted to do this is so that kids knew someone cared and that they are important. It was really heartbreaking to think that these two high schools had had such different experiences that day.”

Bailie said with so much negativity and selfishness in the world, she felt it was important for the students to know that people can care about others.

She was overwhelmed by the response of so many people, with no connection to the students, who wanted to help with the fundraiser.

“I think people like to do good things but sometimes somebody just has to put the idea out there and invite people to join in,” she said. “When people say yes, then magic happens.”

That’s how a Seattle-based company got involved. A friend of Bailie’s contacted Compendium, which makes inspirational cards, to request a donation to the project. 

“They are complete strangers to Riverton High—as are almost all of the donors—but they wanted to help fill a high school with good energy, so they quickly shipped enough cards for everyone,” said Bailie. 

When the roses were passed out to students, each was accompanied with a card that said “Be Happy” or “You’re Awesome.”

Compendium representative Angeline Candido said the spirit and the passion of the project is in line with the company’s culture. 

“It felt like a no-brainer to participate and offer these cards to each student,” said Candido. “Teenagers, especially at this time, need to be reminded that they’re awesome and to be encouraged to be happy.” 

The cards were personally addressed to each student by dance company teacher Brynn Perkins and her dancers, who meticulously went through every single teacher’s second-period roll to make sure no student was missed.

 “It was almost an impossible task,” Perkins said. “The behind-the-scenes work was insane.” In past years, there were usually 350 roses to deliver, said Perkins. With the donations organized by Bailie, this year they prepared nearly 3,000 roses and 2,126 personalized cards in two days and delivered them all within three hours. She said all the work was worth it.

“It started as a fundraiser, but it turned into something far more valuable,” said Perkins. “Tamara took a thought and put it into action, and it had a huge effect; I think it reached farther than she even thought it could reach.” 

Perkins said her dancers benefitted from meeting and serving all of their peers. And students were inspired to make others feel special. One student gave his rose to a postal worker that had come into the building. Perkins said it also brought much needed happiness to the school still recovering from the death of a beloved teacher the previous week.

 “I think when you do nice things for other people it helps recharge your own optimism,” Bailie said. 

She said many have told her they’ve been inspired by this project to do something similar in their own communities. 

“We can’t always make everything work out for everybody, but if we all could just do what we can, where we are, with what we have—if everyone did a little bit in their own circle—there are a lot of opportunities to do something like this,” Bailie said.