Flowering Hope for an Ozanam Hall Resident

By Ayala Ben-Yehuda

An Ozanam Hall resident’s life is a little brighter these days, thanks to a Bayside florist who is fulfilling her wish to be surrounded by beauty.

Georgewood Florist has provided Veronica Mannarino’s 80-year-old mother, Margaret, with a weekly delivery of fresh flowers to the Bayside nursing home, where Margaret has spent the last year struggling with pseudobulbar palsy, an illness related to Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, eventually leading to muscle atrophy and paralysis, according to the ALS Association Web site.

The free flower deliveries were arranged by the Chicago-based Fairygodmother Foundation, a charity that grants wishes to terminally ill adults.

Margaret had loved to garden, but her illness has left her unable even to speak.

“We always say, ‘Look at the flowers you got,’” said Veronica Mannarino, who was raised in Douglaston but now lives on Long Island. “It brought a little sunshine and made lemonade out of lemons.”

“What they did at Georgewood was wonderful,” she said. “I know that she really appreciates it.”

Mannarino was doing Internet research on her mother’s disease in October when she saw a link to the foundation.

It was the organization’s vow that it had never denied a request that prompted Mannarino to ask for flowers.

“I would love for her to get a beautiful bouquet every single week,” Mannarino recalled thinking. “Times are really rough at this point in her life.”

A month and a half later the organization responded and for the last two months, Georgewood Florist has delivered at no charge weekly baskets and vases full of seasonal delights such as roses, larkspur, lisiantus, delphinium and hydrangea to Margaret at the nursing home.

“Every week we do something different,” said Tony D’Iorio, owner of Georgewood Florist. “We just don’t want it to be the same so she has something to look forward to.”

When the Fairygodmother Foundation contacted him, the group asked for just one or two arrangements — whatever the store could provide.

But Georgewood offered to provide elaborate bouquets for the rest of Margaret’s life.

“It’s really so easy for us,” said D’Iorio, given that his Horace Harding Expressway shop delivers frequently in Bayside. “It seemed like the perfect way that we could help somebody.”

Fittingly, Mannarino’s mother would always buy flowers from Keil Bros. when the family lived in Douglaston. Georgewood Florist purchased Keil Bros.’ flower business nine years ago.

“(D’Iorio) said, ‘I guess it was meant to be,’” Mannarino said.

The foundation is also arranging for Mannarino’s mother to receive a new spring wardrobe.

For more information about the Fairygodmother Foundation, call 773-388-1160 or visit www.fairygodmother.org.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

More from Around New York