She could easily be mistaken for Newfoundland’s version of Martha Stewart, minus the jail time.
Linda Ryan is the epitome of creativity and originality. You only have to look at the success of the Pink Days in Bloom campaign or the Evening of Pink Fascination to see her flair.
The breast cancer survivor is the brains and beauty — with support from like-minded volunteers — behind both events in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) Atlantic region.
Pink Days in Bloom is an annual fundraiser Ryan started in 2011 — not long after she finished chemotherapy — stemming from a campaign in the United States that sells a flower called the Invincibelle Spirit Pink Annabelle hydrangea.
For each one sold, a dollar is donated to the cause. But the campaign lasts only a day in the U.S. Ryan took the idea and expanded it into an event that begins in April and flourishes until early September.
The 54-year-old told The Telegram recently the idea started out with one garden centre participating in 2011, seven came on board in 2012 and last summer 17 got into thinking pink.
Talking to her outside her Mount Pearl home just before Halloween, the front yard was impeccably adorned with fall colours and creatures in time for All Hallows’ Eve.
Inside, guests are welcomed with a beautiful Christmas wreath, and downstairs there’s a tall tree decorated in pretty red bows.
The mantel is decked with Christmas blocks, elves and garland. The one-time wedding stylist hasn’t bought into the commercial Christmas frenzy, she had just finished preparing for the Old Fashioned Christmas Fair held Sunday at the Rocket Bakery on Water Street in St. John’s.
Ryan managed to bring the Pink Days in Bloom to Christmas for the second year by getting vendors to donate to the campaign by renting tables and selling some of their wares.
“Last year, at the end of the day, Kelly Mansell — the lovely owner of Rocket Bakery, bless her heart — came to me, and she said, ‘Do you think we could do this again next year?’” said Ryan, laughing.
“It’s a wonderful event and brings breast cancer survivors and those who support them together.”
Ryan said through everything she’s done to raise funds for the foundation, the most fulfilling part is meeting the women and their families.
“I found, personally, the biggest thing for me is the support that comes from it. The Evening in Pink in September, I can’t get over how much people enjoyed that. I find now at the end of the events, people are saying, ‘What are we doing next? Make sure you let me know,”’ she said.
During that event, she said, some women who are going through chemotherapy and radiation were able to make it.
“To be able to see them and everyone around them doing so well and so hopeful, and the friendship and the thought that, I’m not going through this alone — for me that is even more important than the fundraising aspect of it. It’s very motivating and rewarding,” said Ryan.
Events in Atlantic Canada have raised about $70,000 to date.
Ryan found a lump in her breast in 2009, but wasn’t diagnosed until 2010. She had her breast removed at the same time she was dealing with losing her mother-in-law to the disease. It was a dark, sad time and, to make matters worse, because of her treatment she couldn’t take care of her treasured garden.
“That’s all I was worried about,” she said.
But a few helping hands — friends and neighbours — tended to the garden while Ryan was sick.
“Since being diagnosed, it’s been one thing after another — trips and presentations about pink days, organizing fundraisers, the people I’ve met. It has been a whirlwind and a very positive experience. It’s busy, but it comes natural for me,” she said.
What is your full name?
Linda Maureen Ryan.
Where and when were you born?
Placentia Cottage Hospital in a 1959 snowstorm.
Where is home today?
What was one act of rebellion you committed as a youth?
In high school, while our class was preparing for final public exams, some class clowns were acting up and distracting the rest of the students. I had enough, stood up with an armload of books and announced that I was leaving and going to the washroom to study in peace and quiet. As I walked out of the classroom and down the school corridor, I started to wonder what the repercussions of my action would be. Soon after, half a dozen female students joined me. A short time later, the teacher popped his head through the door to ask if we were all OK and to carry on.
What was your favourite year?
The year I met my husband and his mom. She (now deceased) and I quickly became great friends and kindred spirits. I miss her every day.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully, to be blessedly healthy and happy in retirement doing all the things I love and am passionate about, creating and continuing volunteer work along with some travel.
What is your favourite food?
Tortellini primavera with a glass of wine, or anything really that someone else has taken the time to prepare on my behalf. I always enjoy being invited to someone’s home for a meal, especially Sunday dinner with roast chicken, though I’ve never eaten salt meat.
What are five songs in your music collection?
“Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Believe,” “Rolling in the Deep, “Tusk” and “The Long Road.”
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Diane Lane. It’s an event for me whenever she’s on the big screen.
What’s the toughest thing about your job?
At the moment, knowing that I will be eligible to retire in a number of weeks makes it more difficult to focus. I’m very excited and apprehensive at the same time.
If you were an animal, what would you be?
A robin. Robins are harbingers of spring and symbolize rebirth of the spirit.
If you could visit or live in another time, when would that be and why?
I’d like to visit England during the reign of Queen Victoria when many Christmas traditions became popularized, and experience the splendour and spirit of a Victorian Christmas. I think I inherited a love for the season from my father. I have many memories of happy childhood Christmases.
What is your greatest regret?
I am a creative person and wish I had pursued a more expressive career in the magazine industry, perhaps even photo-styling. I think it would be tremendously fun and inspiring every day.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
Most recently, on National Tree Day in September, I participated in a pink-tree planting in support of Pink Days in Bloom and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Atlantic Region at Beachy Cove Elementary School. The students eagerly planted their pink-blooming tree in their outdoor classroom constructed with money raised from recyclables. They named their tree Linda. I’ve never had a tree named after me before. It was such an honour.
What was the most vivid dream you’ve ever had?
I once dreamed that my husband had been in a car accident and had lost his memory. The dream was so real that I literally sat straight up in bed at 6 a.m. with tears streaming down my face. I immediately woke my husband and told him about it. A few hours later, he was in an accident, but thankfully, he wasn’t hurt.
What’s the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was on medical leave recovering from cancer treatments a few years ago, I was browsing the Internet one day and left a comment on the website of Victoria magazine. In April of this year, I was astounded to receive an email from the managing editor asking to purchase my story. It will appear in the May/June 2014 issue. With the money I earned from a few paragraphs I plan to buy a ticket to France to see the roses blooming in Monet’s Garden at Giverny.
Who inspires you?
Many people, particularly the medical professionals at the Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre. They are a special team of people, and the women whose lives have been affected forever by breast cancer but who soldier on in the face of it all. And those who comprise Team Broken Earth who travel to Haiti regularly to bring medical assistance to the people there — my cousin is a member of that team. They are all heroes in my eyes.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I don’t think I have many or any that are hidden. Although sometimes I do think I can sing. When nobody’s listening, I blast the music and sing at the top of my lungs.
What is your most treasured possession?
My collection of past issues of beautiful Victoria magazines. I have every issue since the magazine was first published in the 1980s.
Who is one person, living or deceased, you’d love to have lunch with?
Oprah Winfrey. Or, closer to home, Rick Mercer or George Stroumboulopoulos — anyone, really, who can mind their BlackBerry manners and be genuinely interested and present is a stellar lunch date in my book.