Outdoors, health, hope are celebrated at festival

`Cherrybration' is part of program to fight cancer

May 02, 2007|By Wil Skowronski | Wil Skowronski,sun reporter

On her way to and from work, Margaret Rappaport walks by a cherry tree planted in memory of her husband.

Rappaport's husband, former Howard County Police Chief Paul H. Rappaport, died in September at age 71 after battling sarcoma cancer. His family paid $1,000 for a tree to be planted in his honor in Patriots' Grove at Mount Ida in historic Ellicott City as part of Blossoms of Hope: the Howard County Cherry Tree Project, which raises money to fight cancer and increase awareness of it.

"I get to see it twice a day," said Rappaport, clerk for the Circuit Court of Howard County. "I feel closer to him."

Rappaport worked at a booth Saturday teaching children how to make origami swans at "Cherrybration," an outdoor festival at Centennial Park celebrating Blossoms of Hope, the outdoors and a healthy lifestyle. The festival included a ceremony honoring tree sponsors, time for crafts and information sessions and a luminaria procession of tissue-paper lanterns at dusk.

Rappaport said she volunteered for a good cause. "It makes me feel good when I can be helping someone else," she said. "It's very worthwhile."

People, many wearing pink, turned out for the celebration, despite light rain and cool weather.

"I wish the sun was shining a little bit more, but with all this pink it looks like it's shining," said Victoria Goodman, the executive director of Blossoms of Hope.

The celebration was planned to coincide with the blossoming of the 1,000 Kwanzan cherry trees that have been planted in Howard County as part of the Blossoms of Hope program, Goodman said. The first 20 trees were planted along Route 108 in Founders' Grove at Centennial Park in 2003.

A brief ceremony was held in midafternoon to honor the founders and corporate sponsors of Blossoms of Hope. A $20,000 check - the funds raised from selling the cherry trees - also was given to Howard County General Hospital's Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource and Image Center.

Pamela Joseph, 56, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in June 2005 and used the resource center to get a wig after losing her hair from chemotherapy. She knits hats and blankets at the center for children who have cancer.

She spoke to the small crowd and thanked those who had helped raise the money.

"It makes me feel good because they're raising money for the center I feel comfortable with," Joseph said. "We're glad it's there."

Joseph was diagnosed less than a year after her father-in-law, Malcolm Joseph Sr., died at 78 of multiple myeloma.

"It was very difficult for all of us for Pam to have that diagnosis," said her husband, Malcolm Joseph.

Pamela said the worst part was that she has three children who would watch her battle cancer.

"It was sad because my kids aren't grown," Pamela said.

She and Malcolm have a 15-year-old daughter, a sophomore at River Hill High School; a 19-year-old son, a freshman at the University of Richmond, and a daughter, Natalie, 23, a graduate student at American University in Washington.

"It was difficult for the kids," Malcolm Joseph said. "They took care of themselves while I took care of Pam."

Doctors told Pamela that she might live only 17 months, but the cancer went into remission after an intense clinical trial at the Johns Hopkins' cancer center.

"I've been here longer than that," she said. "So I'm just happy to be here as long as it lasts."

On Saturday, visitors and families were given the chance to take advantage of the different stations or just picnic in the park.

Amy McDaniel of Columbia said that she and her husband, Bill, brought their son Ben, 4, and daughter Katherine, 18 months, to the festival because of the family-friendly activities.

"I think the weather kept a lot people home," Amy McDaniel said. "But it didn't keep us home, and it's been nice "They have a lot of fun things to do."

The family had made origami swans, tried the healthy samples of Odwalla food and drinks, and Ben investigated tents set up by REI.

He said he was having fun "because it's like camping."

Jason Hastings, who represented REI, said his company came to the festival because the concept of the day dovetails with the company's mission: to promote the outdoors.

"It's about reconnecting with the outdoors, and that we leave it in place for our children," he said.

Visitors could test-drive a General Motors fuel-cell car that runs on hydrogen and emits only water.

"This is everything," said Justin Walraven, a test engineer. "It's renewable energy; it's sustainability. This is the single greatest development you could have technologically on the environment."

Visitors also could take home seedlings to plant.

"We're promoting being outside, being in nature and being with your family," Goodman said. "It has a pink and green feel to it."

The festival ended about 8 p.m. with a procession of tissue-paper lanterns.

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