A former nurse has delivered more than 3,000 yellow roses since April to COVID-19 patients across New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, including those in several hospitals and a nursing home in the Capital District.
Living in Franklin Lakes in Bergen County, New Jersey, Amy O’Hara, 37, said each rose comes with a ribbon and tag containing a positive message like “You Are Not Alone,” “You Are Essential to Me” or “Thank You for Being a Rainbow.”
It is part of the “Be A Rainbow” project where O’Hara is collaborating with RedBliss Design — a New York City-based design agency that designs the tags with rainbow hearts — and Colony Florist and Gifts — a Franklin Lakes-based florist that provides the roses.
To deliver the tagged roses, O’Hara said she has driven to around 40 hospitals and nursing homes across the three aforementioned states so far. In the Capital District, she has delivered to patients at Albany Medical Center, St. Peter’s Health Partners, Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital and Our Lady of Mercy Life Center.
“The project is to spread kindness and little rays of light, and I came up with the idea of giving roses to COVID-19 patients,” O’Hara said. “I’d kept in touch with some nurses I’d worked with in New York City and New Jersey who told me how it looks like a warzone now. We got hit hard in my county and also the city.”
She continued, “One of the saddest situations is that patients feel alone, can’t have visitors and their nurses, due to lack of PPE [personal protective equipment], can’t spend much time with them. The patients are scared too and I thought I’d like to let them know that we’re thinking of them.”
The “Be A Rainbow” project is made possible whenever people and/or organizations donate money to O’Hara’s Venmo account — @AmyOHara23 — and indicate if they would like their name printed on the rainbow tag that goes with a rose. O’Hara said any donation amount is generous; she uses the donated money to pay for the roses, ribbons and tags.
For more information, visit www.bearainbowproject.org.
O’Hara ensures that the roses first come to her directly from her florist and she does not have anyone else help her get the roses tagged and ready for delivery; this is to minimize physical contact amid the pandemic. Upon arriving at a destination, she said she wears a mask and gloves when delivering the flowers but does not physically enter the building.
Besides COVID-19 patients, she has also delivered roses to dementia patients and veterans, people whom she believes are more likely to feel isolated or alone during this time too.
According to O’Hara, the “Be A Rainbow” spread by word of mouth since April. “It’s kept me busy and the flowers are like little rays of sunshine for patients and hopefully they can brighten their days,” she said. “I think so many people are home and want to help but do not know how. This has kind of given people a way to give back. I’ve gotten such great feedback so far; I never realized that could happen with such a simple gesture.”
When asked why she chose the yellow rose specifically, O’Hara explained, “I feel like it means friendship and it’s bright like a sun and can brighten their room. I’d initially thought about a white, red or pink flower.”
A mother of three, O’Hara grew up in Glenmont and graduated from Bethlehem Central High School in 2000. She said a 20th-anniversary reunion had been scheduled this year but was canceled due to COVID-19. Since leaving the Capital District, she attended Miami University and became a nurse in New York City and New Jersey. She said she then left her profession to focus on starting her family.
Regarding the pandemic, she said, “I haven’t experienced anything like this. The unique thing about this is that we usually have an answer or a diagnosis for patients but it’s scary that doctors and nurses don’t have the answer yet. I don’t know how long it will last but I want to keep spreading the word about the project and keep the kindness going.”
Photos provided by Amy O’Hara