A breast cancer survivor came in for her first day of chemotherapy, scared of the unknown. Two little girls walked in with flowers and gave her a warm hug, telling her it would be OK.
This is just one of the memories that makes Sherri Sibel Thomas proud of her daughter, Lexi Thomas, 16, for co-founding a nonprofit called Flowers for Powers with her friend Abby Levin, 17 — before the two were even in middle school.
Almost a decade ago, Abby and Lexi were two fourth-grade neighborhood friends. One spring morning, they were jumping on Thomas’ trampoline. As they bounced high and got a good view of the neighborhood, they spotted someone’s colorful flowers.
“I don’t think they realized they shouldn’t be picking people’s flowers from their yards,” Sibel Thomas said.
The girls brought the flowers inside, where Sibel Thomas gave them coffee mugs and old vases to hold them. But the girls didn’t want the flowers to just sit and die, so Sibel Thomas suggested they deliver the flowers to the nursing home around the corner.
“I said they should come up with a name and make deliveries like this often. So I put on Facebook what they were doing, that they named themselves Flowers for Powers,” Sibel Thomas said.
She reached out to GBMC Healthcare – Greater Baltimore Medical Center to find more places for them to deliver flowers.
Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health, called and asked for the girls to bring their flowers to his hospital patients.
Hospitals were a particularly emotional place for Abby. Her paternal grandmother had died of breast cancer in 2008, and her maternal grandmother of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2009.
“Looking back, I was so young, and there was so much I wish I could do,” Abby said.
Their deliveries made her feel like she was doing something to help other patients.
Now, markets donate flowers to Flowers for Powers, and others give them gift cards. They buy Ikea vases for 90 cents, and then make lively arrangements to hand out. The deliveries don’t end there; they also appreciate a good conversation with the patients.
Flowers for Powers registered as a nonprofit in 2013, and the founders have continued their acts of goodwill even while balancing high school schedules.
They go to GBMC’s chemotherapy unit a couple times a month, make sporadic visits to the sick, participate in ALS walks, volunteer with Ronald McDonald House Charities Maryland, hand out flowers at charity parties, and visit schools to educate others on how to start a nonprofit, and so much more.
“Corona made our plans fall apart,” Lexi said. So, they evolved.
Flowers for Powers sends videos to people who are sick or need cheering up, and gives flowers indirectly by having hospital staff hand them out. “It’s not the norm, but it’s the best we can do right now,” Lexi said.
“Abby and I are both the type of people where, when we’re having a bad day, uplifting others people makes us happy,” she continued. She pointed out that they both live comfortable lives. “We want to bring that back into people’s lives.”
Their kindness has impacted thousands, Sibel Thomas estimates. The breast cancer survivor (mentioned earlier) was so taken aback that she created her own fundraiser for Flowers for Powers, according to Sibel Thomas, and donated $4,500 a few months ago.
“It takes a person with a big heart to think to do this, but to continue to do this for eight years,” Sibel Thomas said. “To be involved in all these different activities — Lexi had a job and was babysitting, Abby was in other events — but they were able to navigate through all of their other normal challenges.”
The two are narrowing down their list of possible colleges, but they won’t let those plans hinder the nonprofit. Lexi predicts they will continue when they come home for breaks, and Abby said they could bring the program to college.
“We are family friends, our sisters are friends, and even now Abby has so many activities but we still find time, so I think we will continue,” said Lexi.
Abby wants others to know that it’s never too late to get involved. “It doesn’t involve a ton of work if you don’t want to put in a ton of work,” she said. “But it is so easy to just ask someone how they’re doing.”
Lexi credits their parents in large part, and added that “It wasn’t difficult, but it went such a long way. You’re never too young to support others.”