This spring, the American Cancer Society will distribute millions of daffodils and raise over sixteen million dollars through Daffodil Days. If you want to donate to the cause or help the Cancer Society deliver the flowers and raise the funds, you can go to their website.
I have a memory involving daffodils that takes me back to my sophomore year in college at Herkimer County Community College (now known as Herkimer College).
Our television broadcasting professor arranged for a local television station to help students produce public service announcements to air on the station.
Public Service Announcements or PSAs were commercials for non-profit organizations. Stations still air them for free, but usually in the overnight hours when the available airtime has not been sold.
Each week during the spring semester, we’d go to station WUTR-TV and use their equipment and tap into their expertise.
For the students, this was a unique opportunity to actually get some experience working in a real television station.
Our class was divided into pairs of producers; we had to identify a non-profit, determine whether there was a need for a PSA, and work with the agency to be sure they approved of the messages we were producing. Students would rotate roles such as camera operator, video switcher, and director.
When it was our turn to produce, my classmate Matt and I went to the local office of the American Cancer Society in nearby Utica.
We were there initially there to talk about producing an anti-smoking ad, but the Executive Director of the agency had other ideas.
“Daffodil days are coming up,” he told us. “It would be great if we could stir up some interest in this year’s campaign.”
Matt and I had our mission. We worked on a concept, selected music, and ran our ideas past our professor Dave Champoux, who we would frequently refer to as Mr. C, and our “client” at the Cancer Society.
I still remember some of the lines from the script:
The daffodil is the first flower of spring, and it stands for hope.
Hope is the message from the American Cancer Society.
Your dollars support outreach, services, and research.
Be generous when your Cancer Society volunteer comes calling.
A public service message from Herkimer County Community College and W-U-T-R TV.
“Actually, this is pretty good,”
I recall Mr. C telling us after we presented our plan to produce a thirty-second PSA.
“At the very least, you are focusing on the positive rather than harp on about the dangers of smoking.”
As our night approached to produce the PSA, Matt and I were nervous. The thoughts I recall from some forty plus years ago were along the lines of: will it be effective, will we get it done in the amount of studio time we had, with the Cancer Society like it, will Mr. C like it.
Well, our mix of slides, camera cards, instrumental music, and voiceover (mine, as I was working at a radio station on weekends and had access to a good audio studio) all came together. The spot was well received. I’m sure Matt and I got a good grade, but I honestly don’t recall. I do remember the sense of accomplishment we felt when the project was finished and how that feeling continued over the next several weeks when the PSA aired.
Later that spring, the broadcasting department held an awards ceremony for all the students. The daffodil days PSA picked up a couple of awards.
That night was special. Everyone in the class treated it like the Academy Awards. Our music professor recruited Matt, another singer named Irene, and me to provide some song and dance interludes throughout the evening. A week later, we would graduate from our two-year program.
I remained in contact with Mr. C over the years. He sent me a couple of notes during my broadcasting career congratulating me and offering advice on adjusting in my chosen career.
I spoke to him by phone shortly after accepting a job as an adjunct college lecturer many years ago. He remained one of my favorite teachers.
Flash forward to about three years ago when Mr. C tagged me on Facebook one spring day. It was about a year before he lost his battle with cancer.
Then retired in North Carolina, he called my attention to a photograph he shared. The photo was of a daffodil. The message from my professor was to the point- “Hey Steve, does this look familiar?”
It sure did look familiar. It took me back to a time when youth was in ample supply; where energy abounded and optimism filled the air around me.