This is a story of love, flowers and a soccer team.
But mostly, it's about the flowers.
Just hours earlier, the billowy white hydrangeas, classic white roses, and outrageous pink peonies had festooned a Center City wedding, their scents and grace dazzling the Ballroom at the Ben for a Springfield, Delaware County, couple in love.
Rather than let the blossoms molder or be carted away by dexterous aunts with a sharp eye for fancy flora, the bride and groom had arranged for the beauties to be collected by Forget Me Knot (as in tying the knot) Flowers, a nonprofit that repurposes wedding flowers into "bedside bouquets" to brighten the rooms of sick, elderly or hurting souls.
"When I deliver the flowers," said Leona Davis, a Haddonfield woman whose house the soccer girls had gathered in, "I talk about love to the people getting them. I want to make a real connection to people who are lonely." Davis created Forget Me Knot about two years ago.
Wedding flowers are imbued with enough good feeling, Davis, 66, believes, that their stalks and petals can easily morph from Saturday night decoration to sick-room adornment. Davis and her husband, Tom, 66, a senior director of a Florida-based company that manufactures electronic components, can transport flowers to a nursing home before the married couple can reach their honeymoon destinations.
"Oh, my God, these flowers smell so good," said Davis, a music teacher at Bells Elementary School in Washington Township.
Each weekend for the last 20 months, a different volunteer group has crowded into the Davis basement to give wedding flowers a second life. Social media and old-fashioned word of mouth convey the call for help.
The couple's daughter, Christina, started the whole thing when she suggested after her own wedding two years ago that her flowers — so extravagant and ephemeral — be donated to extend their usefulness.
"So a seed was planted," said Davis, unable to let go of floral metaphors. "We've delivered 3,000 bedside bouquets and logged 1,000 volunteer hours since our beginning."
Marrying couples are asked to make a donation of $350 to $700 to cover the cost of renting vans and trucks to transport the flowers, and other operating expenses.
On Sunday, easy-listening music by Steely Dan, America and other bands that played 30 years or more before the Haddonfield soccer girls were born, filled the basement as they recut, refreshed and restyled the flowers.
Friends since they were 7 years old, the sophomores, now 16, concentrated as though they were in fourth-period algebra, rarely checking the cellphones they'd tucked into the waistbands of their athletic shorts.
Aware that they are privileged, the girls formed a group they call Teams Work for Good, which supports various charitable causes. Recently, they did volunteer work for an anti-hunger agency.
"We are so fortunate in our lives here," said Sofia Presenza. "We need to give back."
What they gave back in a fragrant endeavor of noblesse oblige was 126 bouquets in less than two hours' work.
"Let's go," Tom said, and he and Davis were off to Spring Hills senior living community in Cherry Hill.
Davis encountered a white-haired woman in the lobby.
"Hi, there. How are you?" Davis asked. She offered the woman a bouquet, small but stunning in a vase filled with water.
"Are you sure I'm the one who gets them?" asked Mary Joan Stamos, 85, of North Philadelphia.
"It's yours," Davis assured her.
Stamos began to cry. "I was miserable, and now I'm happy. You made me feel so much better. And you're pretty, too."
Davis didn't seem to hear the compliment. She was off to deliver more bedside bouquets in the facility's dining room.
Asked why it's important, Davis shrugged and smiled, offering the only reason she can think of: