The Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day fundraiser takes place on Friday March 26th

Kieran Foley

The Irish Cancer Society is urging people in Waterford to get behind a very different Daffodil Day this year.

The charity’s much loved flagship fundraiser is unable to take place in its traditional format with street sales of fresh daffodils or daffodil pins, and community events. The staging of various other events are not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions.

However, there are still many ways for people in Waterford to get involved with this year’s Daffodil Day which is taking place on Friday March 26th, proudly supported by Boots Ireland.

Around 880 people in Waterford will receive a cancer diagnosis each year and Daffodil Day presents an important opportunity to raise vital funds for services and research while also sending a message of support to people affected by cancer – something which is especially important during these challenging times.

Waterford Daffodil Day

Daffodil Day originated in Canada six decades ago. The Canadian Cancer Society began using the daffodil in the 1950s. Representing the first flower of spring, it has proven an iconic symbol of hope and cancer research and awareness ever since, and has become the logo of cancer societies around the world including here in Ireland.

The first Irish Daffodil Day was organised by the founder of the Irish Cancer Society Professor Austin Darragh and Society CEO Tom Hudson in 1988. The day quickly became an annual March tradition.

Here in Waterford, there is a proud Daffodil Day tradition and a strong team of stalwarts who have been associated with the event for many years.

Chairperson of Waterford Daffodil Day committee Des Daunt has been involved with Daffodil Day for 25 years. His mother Olive was one of the founding members of Waterford Daffodil Day.  Billy Walsh (RIP) of Killotteran, Butlerstown was also part of original team of organisers and was a passionate promoter of the event.

Des says the solid foundation which this original group built has helped get Waterford Daffodil Day to where it is 32 years later. He says Daffodil Day has become a hugely popular annual event in Waterford, with people keen to find out when it’s happening each year and eager to support the event in any way they can. In recent years, upwards of €70,000 has been raised each year as a result of Daffodil Day events in Waterford.

Chairman of Waterford Daffodil Day committee, Des Daunt speaking at the launch of the 2018 event at Waterford Health Park.

Des explains that the majority of funds raised in Waterford on Daffodil Day are generated through collection points in the city centre and its environs, including at different supermarkets. Volunteers are usually stationed at stalls where there is a large volume of footfall. There are also collection points at locations scattered across Waterford city and county and South Kilkenny. Each area has its own dedicated team of volunteers who are responsible for collections within their locality. Des praised the work of all the volunteers involved locally.

“They come back every year,” he says. “Every person who’s running each centre always says to me ‘make sure I’m on the list for next year’.”

Des explains that new volunteers regularly contact the Irish Cancer Society seeking to get involved. These new recruits are then put in contact with their local committee.

As well as raising vital funds, Daffodil Day is also a social occasion when volunteers enjoy interacting with people throughout the day.

In addition to street collections, there are normally a whole host of events organised on Daffodil Day including community activities such as coffee mornings and various school fundraisers. However, as was the case in 2020, none of these events can take place in their usual format in 2021 so the Society must once again focus its efforts on encouraging online donations.

Impact of pandemic

Normally, the main concern for Daffodil Day organisers each year relates to the weather. Adverse weather conditions can dramatically reduce footfall and therefore impact on the funds which are raised through street sales.

In 2013, the Irish Cancer Society faced major challenges after a washout on Daffodil Day. This resulted in a need to expand traditional Daffodil Day events. Subsequently, greater emphasis was placed on promoting the option of online donations.

2020 presented unprecedented challenges for all charities, with Daffodil Day being one of the first major charity fundraisers in Ireland to be impacted by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, throughout the year, many people organised their own fundraising events and there were also a number of high profile appeals and fundraising endeavours which generated significant funds, including on ‘The Late Late Show’ in May.

This year, online events will be central to Daffodil Day yet again. Des explains that people in Waterford can rest assured that the money raised locally will continue to benefit services locally. A breakdown of the online funds raised in each area will also be made available.

“It isn’t a competition, but people like to know how their own area did each year,” he explains.

Despite financial pressures, Des says the people of Waterford remain incredibly generous and enthusiastic about contributing.

“There are very few families who can say they haven’t been touched by cancer in some way,” he points out. Additionally, he says there has been great support from the business community in Waterford.


Continuing to provide its regular advice and support, the Irish Cancer Society is also currently striving to combat the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on detection rates of cancer.

“Early detection is key,” says Des. “There is now a huge emphasis on encouraging people to look after themselves and to get checked.”

He explains that demand for the services provided by the Irish Cancer Society is currently being met but support from the public is more important than ever to ensure that these services can continue.

THE DAFFS ARE OUT: Launching Daffodil Day 1992 at City Hall were: Billy Walsh, Co-Ordinator for Daffodil Day; Mayor of Waterford Councillor Hilary Quinlan; Nurse Marita Curtin; who presented a bunch of Daffodils to Mayor Quinlan and Olive Daunt, Chairperson, Waterford Branch, Irish Cancer Society.

Throughout the pandemic, the Irish Cancer Society has continued to provide vital services and support to cancer patients and their families across Waterford.  Services like Night Nursing, the Freephone Support Line (1800 200 700) and the Volunteer Driver Service are all available because of the vital funds raised on Daffodil Day.

In 2020, there were 149 nights of night nursing provided in Waterford to allow patients spend their final days at home surrounded by loved ones.

Night nurse Anna Drynan Gale, who covers much of the South-East region, has witnessed first-hand the unique challenges experienced by families with loved ones receiving end-of-life care during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With a growing number of families choosing to bring family members home to die, having a night nurse enables them to do this for loved ones who in other circumstances might have remained in hospital,” she says.

Anna Drynan Gale, Irish Cancer Society Nurse, speaking at the launch of Daffodil Day in Waterford in 2018.

“Families want and need to be together, they want to be close, they want to be present. They are especially grateful for the support, expertise and professionalism that night nurses bring in what can be a very daunting and emotional time. It is such a rewarding job, and the people we support are so appreciative of what we’re able to do for them.”

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Society’s Volunteer Driver Service has remained in operation in line with Covid-19 guidelines. The service recognises the fact that non-medical issues can often cause huge concern to cancer patients. Practical issues such as transport, and a fear of burdening family members, can cause great upset.

Bernie Murphy and Peg Tebay pictured at the launch of Daffodil Day in Waterford in 2015.

The Volunteer Driver Service operates in 23 hospitals around the country. The Society’s fleet of over 1,000 volunteer drivers provide free lifts to and from chemotherapy appointments for patients struggling with transportation. In 2020, there were 143 volunteer driver journeys in Waterford.

Meanwhile, 874 people in Waterford were helped by the Irish Cancer Society’s Support Line and Daffodil Centre nurses and 96 counselling sessions were provided for people in Waterford through the Society’s remote counselling service.

Daffodil Centre

The Waterford Daffodil Centre, now located at UPMC Whitfield Hospital, is continuing to provide important services during this challenging time.

Mary Bennett is an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse at the Daffodil Centre and outlines the work which takes place:

“In the Daffodil Centre, my colleague Anna and I are here to provide a listening ear when you are worried about cancer, when you have a diagnosis or you are caring for someone who has cancer. We can help you navigate your way on your cancer journey by putting you in touch with other services that can support you such as a volunteer driver to take you to hospital for your chemotherapy treatment, social welfare entitlements, and your local cancer support centre. We work closely with our colleagues in Oncology, Haematology and Radiotherapy in the hospital and our colleagues in the community providing support in Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford and South Tipperary.”

Mary says the past year has been a very difficult time for everyone but particularly people with a cancer diagnosis and their families.

“In my working day as a nurse in the Irish Cancer Society Daffodil Centre, people share with me the worries and struggles they face,” she explains. “They tell me Covid-19 has added an extra and very distressing layer of difficulty. They are staying apart from loved ones in order to stay safe, so many are feeling extremely lonely, afraid and uncertain. That’s why your support this Daffodil Day will make such a difference in raising funds for crucial services.”

Mary says UPMC are “pulling out all the stops” in Whitfield Hospital and Aut Even in Kilkenny and getting behind the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day.

“There is great sense of excitement here as the hospital gets ready for the big day by decorating the hospital in yellow,” she says. “All this week daffodil silks and pins will be on sale for staff and patients attending the hospital. Staff are encouraged to wear something yellow on Friday to mark the occasion.”


This year marks the fourth year of Boots Ireland sponsoring Daffodil Day, which is an extension of a well-established partnership with the Irish Cancer Society that began back in 2012. Through the partnership, Boots Ireland is committed to increasing awareness, helping support people affected by cancer and promoting cancer prevention.

Boots’ 89 stores located nationwide will be raising vital funds by selling Daffodil pins in store and hosting virtual fundraisers across the country.

Summing up the importance of supporting this year’s Daffodil Day, Rosemary Simmons, Fundraising Lead at the Irish Cancer Society, says: “The people of Waterford have always been incredibly generous in their support of Daffodil Day, but this year more than ever, we need your help. Although we cannot take to the streets to sell daffodils, or host coffee mornings with friends, there are still so many meaningful ways for communities to raise vital funds this year. Because of the additional anxieties a cancer diagnosis during Covid-19 brings, cancer patients need your support more than ever before. Please get involved with Daffodil Day to ensure nobody in Waterford has to go through cancer alone”.

If you have concerns or questions about cancer, or to learn more about support services available in your area, contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line on Freephone:1800 200 700

There are many ways for communities across the country to get involved with Daffodil Day, by hosting virtual fundraisers and collections, purchasing items from the Daffodil Day online shop, or making a donation. Go to day to find out more.

The Daffodil Centre at UPMC Whitfield Hospital can be contacted on 087-9625433/086-0655721 Monday to Friday.