NORTH TONAWANDA – Philip L. Tallmadge, of North Tonawanda, was just 20 years old when he lost his 15-month battle with cancer on July 6. But his positive and giving nature will still shine through with “Flowers for Phil,” an event that is being held in his name through Aug. 8, culminating with a fundraiser from 5 to 11:30 p.m. that night at the Renaissance Club, 252 Vandervoort St.
Before and during his illness, Phil Tallmadge would surprise people with flowers for no reason. To continue that spirit volunteers will hand-deliver bouquets to staff at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The bouquets can be purchased at Sherwood Florist, at 458 Oliver St., for discounted prices of $5, $10, and $15 today through Tuesday and at the fundraiser.
Phil Tallmadge’s brother Bryan Tallmadge chronicled his fight against cancer on social media and on that final day he sent a touching message to hundreds of people who had been pulling for Phil Tallmadge.
He shared one of his brother’s final thoughts: “Don’t waste time here in this life. Everything can be taken from you in a blink of an eye. Live by these words from here on out. Tell someone that they are loved and make them smile. Work hard for what you believe in and never, ever stop. Don’t hide your emotions or worry about how others view the real you. Send some flowers to someone you care about for no reason. Be yourself. You have one opportunity to make your mark on the world and those around you and that’s not even guaranteed. Make it happen.”
Amy Sileo, the owner of Sherwood Florist and a friend of Bryan Tallmadge, said the message she read online touched her and she started a free flower giveaway in Phil Tallmadge’s honor. That developed into the “Flowers for Phil” initiative with discounted prices as a way to “pay it forward.”
“[Bryan] spoke about what his brother went through and how positive he stayed,” Sileo said. “You just wanted to keep this going and remember to treat every day as special. The way he worded it, ‘take time to buy someone flowers for no reason,’ caught my eye. These lives that we live now are so busy and you don’t take time to smell the roses and, as a florist, I don’t do it at all sometimes.”
After Phil Tallmadge’s memorial, the giveaway was transformed into the “Flowers for Phil” event.
Sileo said one of the best parts of her job is the smile you get when you are delivering flowers to someone.
“Their face just lights up,” she said.
Bryan Tallmadge said his brother stayed positive up to the end.
“His upbeat attitude kept us focused on giving back,” Bryan Tallmadge said. “Just him being so positive kept us lifted up as well. His big message was don’t waste time in his life and give flowers for no reason. That’s what Amy picked up on.”
He said the giveaway is definitely something Phil Tallmadge would have endorsed.
He said they are hoping that people see that instead of being devastating to a family, something like this can push them forward to do good things for other people.
Phil Tallmadge had just graduated from high school, had enrolled in college and started a job in March 2013 when he was diagnosed at age 19 with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. After six cycles of chemotherapy and 28 radiation treatments, he was declared cancer-free, but just three months later, this past March, his cancer returned.
Bryan Tallmadge said his brother never complained, even after he had a lung removed.
“We are hoping to amplify that courage by sharing our story with people and inspiring other people who might be going through the same thing,” he said.
Bryan Tallmadge said they had hoped Phil Tallmadge could attend the benefit on Aug. 8, but now it will be a memorial and fundraiser for the family. There will be live music and a basket auction. It is open to the public. Tickets are $30 per person or two for $50. Tickets may be purchased at the door.