Today I’m so happy to introduce you to one of our really special workshop scholarship recipients, Danielle Grandholm.
In April 2020, at 8 months pregnant, Danielle planted her very first cutting garden. Two weeks later she went into labor and upon her daughter’s birth learned that she had Down syndrome.
Surprised by the lack of resources provided by the hospital where her daughter Sammie was born ultimately led Danielle and her husband Matt to start a nonprofit called Rising Kites. Their organization provides education and support for new parents who have recently learned that their child has a Down syndrome diagnosis. Danielle’s cutting garden helps fund the nonprofit through bouquet sales, subscriptions, and workshops.
When filming season 2 of Growing Floret, we asked Danielle and her family if they would be willing to have us come out to capture their story. To our delight, they agreed and members of the Blue Chalk team headed out to Michigan.
Danielle’s story is featured in episode 3 of the show and we knew Floret readers would be interested in learning more about her story. If you’re in need of some inspiration, this interview is a must-read.
Danielle, thank you so much for joining me for this interview. I’m thrilled to help share your story. Please introduce yourself, let readers know where you are located and what fills your days, and how you first learned about Floret.
I’m Danielle, the co-founder and director of Rising Kites. My husband Matt and I have two children, Louis and Sammie, and we live in Bridgman, Michigan, which is a small town located along the southern part of Lake Michigan about an hour and a half from Chicago, Illinois.
Caring for our two young children fills the majority of my days, so currently that means lots of school drop-offs, therapy appointments, and lego building. But when I’m not in full mom mode I’m taking part in all sorts of nonprofit work, from building and shipping Rising Kites bags to communicating with other families in the Down syndrome community to working in our garden and delivering flowers.
I learned about Floret back in the spring of 2020, as I was pregnant with Sammie and planning my first cut flower garden. I started researching how to grow flowers and came across your blog. I poured over your blog posts and watched every free video workshop you put out to learn what I could about growing flowers.
We’ve absolutely loved having you as part of the Floret Online Workshop alumni community. How has winning a scholarship impacted your life and your business?
I’m so incredibly grateful to have been able to participate in the workshop! It benefited us greatly as we continue to expand our nonprofit on both the flower side and the outreach side.
Having your and Jill’s endless wisdom helped me better utilize the small space we have available in our backyard so we are able to make a larger impact—one I’m certain I would not have been able to do without your knowledge. I was also able to take a lot of your advice on goal setting and carry it over into other areas of our nonprofit—allowing me to have a better focus and drive for the work we are doing.
What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about taking the Online Workshop and/or applying for a scholarship?
First off, do it! Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be given the opportunities I’ve been given as a result of applying. But here I am.
Secondly, if you’re applying, be brave and share your dreams boldly. Writing out my dreams for our nonprofit scared me but voicing them made them a reality. And the workshop has provided me with steps to work towards those goals.
What once felt impossible actually feels doable now! Still scary, but doable.
Please tell us about Rising Kites. What inspired you to start this project?
Matt and I had always wanted to start a nonprofit; we just had no idea what it would be. But then came our daughter Sammie, or “Flower,” as my son called her throughout our pregnancy. Sammie was born with Down syndrome and her at-birth diagnosis rocked our world.
The hospital she was born in cared for us wonderfully, but we left feeling completely lost as the only information they provided us with was a Google printout telling us what Down syndrome was. We spent the beginning weeks and months of our daughter’s life searching for answers to tons of questions. When looking back, we wish we would have been able to enjoy her more.
As we started to make connections with other families in the Down syndrome community it became clear that many others also left the prenatal clinic or hospital feeling lost and overwhelmed after receiving a diagnosis. We also spoke with a number of doctors and nurses who told us that they often feel ill-equipped to provide adequate resources and avenues of support to families receiving this news.
As a result, we were inspired to start Rising Kites.
Rising Kites provides bags of resources, education, and encouragement to hospitals, birthing centers, and prenatal clinics that can be distributed immediately to parents who are just learning that their child was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
It is our hope that by providing bags directly to these facilities, families who are new to the Down syndrome community will receive immediate education, resources, and encouragement as they navigate a new and unexpected road.
Flowers soon became a large part of the nonprofit the summer after we launched as I found they were a great way to spread our mission and fundraise for the bags.
As I said, I started my first garden when I was pregnant with Sammie. It was in that garden that I found a lot of healing as I processed her diagnosis and because of the garden I was able to see the beauty that exists in differences—each flower is unique and beautiful, just like each individual in this world.
Through these flowers, I now get to share Sammie’s story with others while also getting to share the lesson I learned: That there is beauty in being different.
Since starting Rising Kites, what has been your biggest challenge and also the most rewarding part of creating this incredible nonprofit?
I absolutely love what I’m doing—honestly more than any other job I’ve ever had—but I quickly learned after we launched that I can’t wear all of the hats. I was doing administrative stuff, building and shipping bags, locating resources, contacting health facilities, running social media, planting a garden, delivering flowers, running workshops—ALL THE THINGS.
So the challenge has been to find people who can take on the roles and tasks that I don’t have the capacity for and also to be comfortable with people taking those roles on. Thankfully, my sister-in-law and sister, who have amazing hearts and are incredibly gifted in the areas I’m not, have taken on some of those tasks that were more difficult for me.
Another challenge has been getting our bags into these facilities. Thankfully we’ve been able to supply our bags to over 60 healthcare facilities across the United States thus far, but finding the right person to get them in the doors and then into the hands of families has been difficult.
What we’ve found is that facilities want these bags but we only know so many people and can’t always find the right person to make this happen. With that said, we are always looking for social workers, nurses, and doctors who work directly with these families so we can make these connections and ensure families are getting the care they need when they receive a diagnosis.
Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of our work is getting to know the families who receive these bags, hearing their stories, and watching them fall in love with their little ones. Growing this community and bearing witness to the ways Sammie’s life has impacted so many is a gift that just never ends. It is truly a joy.
If people would like to learn more about Rising Kites, what should they do? What are some of the ways people can help or be a part of what you’re doing?
You can learn more about our work at Rising Kites and read our full story on our website.
We also have several ways people can help support our work, from simply making a donation to helping us get connected with their local hospital and/or OB/GYN. To see all the ways to get involved, I’d encourage people to check out our “Get Involved” page.
What are you currently working on and what are you excited about for this coming year?
I’m always shipping out bags. Thankfully that work never ends. This year we intend to send out 1,000 bags to families new to the Down syndrome community, which is a little mind-blowing but so stinking exciting.
I’m also really excited about a couple of fundraising projects we will have this spring and summer. One is our Rising Kites Garden Kits, which are intended for new flower growers who have no experience but want to give growing flowers a try. In them, I share a bit of our story about Sammie and how flowers helped me to embrace her differences. It also contains an initiative to share flowers with others, which will hopefully continue to spread our mission.
I’ve been working really hard on this project and I’m excited to see people all over the country growing their own Rising Kites gardens and shedding light on how differences bring beauty into this world.
I’m also planning a floral workshop that is focused on being disability-inclusive. It’ll be an event where kids can come and learn how to make their own floral arrangements and plant their own flowers, as well as spend time with individuals with disabilities and learn about their differences and how these differences bring beauty into the world.
This is in the beginning stages but if it’s anything like what I have in my head it’s going to be a really sweet event.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I just want to say thank you again. You and your team have gone over the top to provide us with more than we ever could have imagined when I first pushed ‘submit’ to apply for your scholarship.
I don’t know that we could have had the vision and drive that we have had without your encouragement and teaching, and I’m hopeful that our work will continue to pay it forward.
Thank you so much for joining me for this interview. You’re making a huge difference in the lives of so many people and you’re such an inspiration to me and all of us here at Floret.
You can learn more about Rising Kites and how to support its mission by visiting its website.
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