Walker florist thanks first responders with roses

WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — When words aren’t enough, say it with flowers. That’s what a local florist did, bringing 500 roses to Life EMS the Walker Police Department and Grand Rapids Police Department Friday morning.

It was a thank you to some of the front-line heroes in the area now that it seems the worst of the coronavirus has passed.

Designing Dreams Floral in Walker was shut down as a nonessential business in March. It has reopened now and store owner Tonja VanderVeen is ready to spread some cheer and a couple hundred flowers.

“I hope that they’re excited, just through something as simple as flowers that we got to thank them and show our support,” VanderVeen said. “I hope they know somebody is thinking of them and the work that they do and all the hard stuff that they have to deal with recently.”

Designing Dreams delivered a gift of roses for Walker first responders on June 19, 2020.

When News 8 last spoke with VanderVeen in April, her shop was devoid of a single flowers. She was afraid her business wouldn’t survive. Then she had an idea. She posted on Facebook, asking people to leave encouraging messages for first responders that she promised to write on notes and string to roses. 

“We can’t say the words and I am not a very good speaker so it’s like, this says it best,” VanderVeen said. “Flowers show every emotion. Happiness, love, sadness, thankfulness, and so that’s what we did. I would think this would mean the world to them (first responders) when they receive these.”

VanderVeen hopes her simple, sweet gesture will show the heroes and her own daughter Kayla, who works for Life EMS, just how thankful she and the Walker community is for their service. 

“I always say to her, ‘I love how big your heart is.’ I just love it,” Kayla said of her mother. “We signed up for this. I knew what I was getting into but you don’t think about how it will affect your family either.”

Designing Dreams florist Tonja VanderVeen and her daughter Kayla (in uniform) with a gift of roses for Walker first responders. (June 19, 2020)

VanderVeen has always worried about her daughter and those fears have only been amplified during these tumultuous times. 

“There was a couple sketchy times that I’m like, OK, Kayla where are you? In the back of your head, you’re always worried but she’s doing her job and she’s always said, I have to put my life on the line to save others.’ And she does that very well, VanderVeen said. “I know how much she sacrifices and as a mom, you think of all these other heroes, they’ve got husbands, they’ve got wives all on the line and as this mom going, ‘Holy cats, my daughter’s out there,’ and you’re worried.”

She hopes her gift of kindness in the form of flowers helps convey more than she ever could with words alone. 

“We want to show them how very thankful we are for what they do for the community and we want to thank them,” VanderVeen said. “I want them to be reminded as they’re holding that flower all day long or even through the day somebody thought of them. Somebody is so appreciative of them. Somebody is thankful that they do their job well.”