Shirley Batsie Memorial Rose Sale Continues to Touch Hundreds of Lives

WARE — Once again, Michele Lariviere, owner of Otto Florist and Gifts located on Main Street in Ware set out in September to conduct the 13th annual Shirley Batsie Memorial Rose Sale. The Rose Sale continues to further the vision of the late Shirley Batsie — to provide a lifeline of comfort for patients and families while at the hospital for their cancer treatment.

Despite a number of obstacles, Lariviere was determined to continue to hold the annual fund-raiser, which to date has raised more than $200,000 in support of Baystate Regional Cancer Program at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. This year’s rose sale raised $7,745.

“I don’t think anyone will forget this past winter,” said Lariviere. “The storms that hit New England dumped so much snow that many buildings suffered from the weight of the snow, including the business right next to my flower shop. A collapsed roof and condemned building created a barrier to foot traffic to my flower shop.

“Add to that an already-difficult economy, high fuel prices, and big-box store competition,” he continued. “I wondered if I would be able to stay in business, let alone sponsor a fund raiser.”

The challenges didn’t end there, as during the winter Lariviere got sick.

“It wasn’t until I faced my own health concerns, multiple doctor appointments, and testing that I realized what people go through when they face a health scare, and even worse, a cancer diagnosis,” said Lariviere. “You don’t think too much about your community hospital until you need it, and then it becomes one of the most important things in your life.”

Committed to the annual fund-raiser, Lariviere called on the many faithful community volunteers who have been by her side, ready to prepare the roses to be sold and brave the changing September weather selling roses during this unique community fund-raiser.

“The rose sale volunteers come back every year and put a friendly, committed face to this event that raises money to support keeping cancer care local,” said Lariviere. “We have all been touched by cancer in some way and realize the importance that the Baystate Regional Cancer Program offers in Ware to our family members, friends, and our community. And everyone loves to get flowers! There is nothing like getting surprised with flowers. The best part of being a florist is how special your creations make people feel.”

During the 2011 rose sale, more than 36,000 roses brightened community households and comforted many touched by cancer.

Adding to the meaningfulness of this year’s rose sale, Constanty Kosinski Jr., a cousin of Lariviere, passed away after a brief battle with cancer, shortly after the 2010 rose sale. “Conny loved to volunteer at the rose sale and also managed the rose-sale finances,” said Lariviere.

This year, rose-sale activities hit close to home as Lariviere presented $650 in donations made in memory of Lariviere by those that loved him to the Baystate Regional Cancer Program at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.

“Michelle Lariviere is a community hero, and we salute her strength and unwavering support,” said Carol Baribeau, director of Annual Funds and Events at Baystate Health Foundation. “The Baystate Regional Cancer Program at Mary Lane Hospital continues to offer a patient-centered environment with experts from the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, family support, counseling, educational materials, pastoral care, and state-of-the art equipment, plus so much more, thanks to Michelle and the many community volunteers.”

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