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Guest Blog: Reflecting on Tulips Against Tumors Tribute After 10 Years

Published on September 24, 2015 in Fundraising, In the Community

Guest Author: Chris Grundner

Chris Grundner is Founder of The Kelly Heinz-Grundner Brain Tumor Foundation* & son of the creator of the “Tulips Against Tumors Tribute”

When we first created the Tulips Against Tumors Tribute 10 years ago, we had a dream that it would someday grow into a national program that would bring widespread attention to, and raise valuable dollars for, the brain tumor cause. Given our aspirations, my family and I are beyond thrilled, on this the 10th anniversary of the Tribute, to see how it has grown in both scope and impact, thanks to the efforts of the National Brain Tumor Society. As we sit back and reflect upon all that the Tribute has become, we took some time to think about how it all started. My mom, Susan Morisson, originated the idea and tells the story best. Below are her words:

“The room was aglow with soft candle light; the music, a calming whisper in the background. The tables were exquisitely filled with hundreds of the most beautiful tulips in every color and shape, a gift of love from one of her best friends and a symbol of the hope we held for her as she bravely battled for her life.


It was May 11, 2003 and it was Kelly’s 30th birthday and we, 100 of her closest friends and family members, awaited Kelly’s arrival at her favorite restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware, to celebrate with her. The look on Kelly’s face when she saw the breathtaking sea of tulips lavishly arrayed before her was amazing. (Anyone who knew Kelly knew she just loved tulips!) Despite the pain she was feeling, Kelly smiled from ear to ear and used the strength she garnered from this joy to take her first steps – just eight months after the surgery to remove her tumor left her completely paralyzed on her left side. The doctors told Kelly that she’d probably never walk again, but walk she did that day, and believe me, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

Sadly, the next time I saw another array of glorious tulips was sixteen months later at the luncheon following Kelly’s memorial service. This time, each one was a symbol of the utter grief of the several hundred people who came to pay their last respects. I was prime among them. I had been so grateful to have had Kelly in my life, as the daughter I had always wanted. I was just heartbroken to lose her.

When I first met Kelly, I was eager to get to know her and to find out what we had in common – other than the most important thing – we both loved my son, Chris. As it turned out, Kelly and I had several other things in common, one of which was a love for tulips. In fact, I remember her telling me “If I could fill the world with tulips, I would.” I never forgot those words.

After Kelly was diagnosed with a brain tumor, I was completely devastated and wanted to do something to let her know that she was in my heart every minute of every day despite my being hundreds of miles away in Buffalo, New York. Then I was reminded of how much Kelly loved tulips. I was thrilled, not only remembering the conversation she and I had about tulips years ago, but also because I was able to have some sent to her immediately and regularly.

If I could fill the world with tulips, I would.

Attribution: Kelly Heinz-Grundner
Portland 2002

As always, Kelly was very grateful for the tulips, especially the purple ones. She said she loved tulips because they always made her smile. I told her that I loved tulips because they never actually die. Since the life force within each bulb is so strong, even after being dormant and out of sight for a while during the winter, they always bloom again. I told Kelly that tulips reminded me of her strength and resilience in the face of incredible odds and that she was such an inspiration to all of us during her battle.

In the months after Kelly’s passing, Chris worked very hard to establish The Kelly Heinz-Grundner Brain Tumor Foundation to raise awareness and educate the public and medical professionals about the disease. As we approached the first anniversary of Kelly’s death, we were brainstorming ways to pay tribute to her. Suddenly, it came to me that it would be a perfect gesture of our love to remember the beauty Kelly brought into our lives by helping to fulfill her wish to fill the world with tulips. At the same time, if done correctly, we could also raise much-needed awareness and money for the cause. Thus, the Tulips Against Tumors Tribute was born and has continued to blossom ever since!”

Like the tulip that is never ending and ever renewing, we know in our hearts that Kelly continues to shine her love and light upon us, and we are sure that she is smiling her beautiful smile at all that the Tulips Against Tumors Tribute has become. It is amazing that her spirit continues to live on through this tribute 10 years later.

Tulips are a beautiful symbol of hope and faith for a brighter future. Carefully planted in the fall, they reward our patience by bursting forth as glorious heralds of spring. We hope that you’ll join us in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the program by purchasing tulips of your own and planting them in honor or memory of someone you know who has been affected by this terrible disease.

Other ways you can get involved in Tulips Against Tumors:

Memorialize and Honor: Plant a tulip bed to recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, honor someone battling a brain tumor, or celebrate those who have lost their fight. Gather your friends and family and turn the planting into a community event. It’s an easy, fun, and meaningful way to have an impact.

Tell Your Friends: Share this page with friends, family, and followers on social media so they too can experience the joy of beautiful spring tulips. Tell them to spread the word. Follow our Tulips Against Tumors posts on Twitter and Facebook.

*About The Kelly Heinz-Grundner Brain Tumor Foundation & Tulips Against Tumors 

In March 2010, the National Brain Tumor Society joined forces with the Kelly Heinz-Grundner Foundation (KHG) – a Delaware-based group dedicated to raising awareness about brain tumors. KHG was founded in 2004 as a tribute to Kelly, who died in September 2004, after a two-year battle with a brain tumor.

National Brain Tumor Society is proud to carry on the Tulips Against Tumors tradition in recognition of Kelly, Chris, Susan and the rest of the brain tumor community across the country. We are once again partnering with EcoTulips, a pioneer in the organic flower bulb industry, to feature a wide array of bulbs and mixes for purchase during the month of September.

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