Local businesses raise money for Chattanooga's "Flower Man"
Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Some know him as the "Midnight Florist" and others call him the "Flower Man".
But his name is Sandy Bell and he's somewhat of a legend for passing out flowers on the streets and in the bars of Chattanooga.
Now he is fighting cancer and the community is coming to his aid.
Sandy Bell has undergone multiple surgeries and is now receiving chemo treatments.
Meanwhile, his medical bills are pilling up.
That's why on Sunday benefits were held at five locations to help Bell get back to passing out those flowers.
"He's been around for a really long time but he remains sort of an underground celebrity," says friend Eddie Bridges.
But Sunday the man known as the "Midnight Florist" came out into the daylight to be almost bombarded by those who love him.
"I'm so appreciative of them. I think of them as family it's just overwhelming," says Sandy.
Those who know Sandy say they've talked a lot about what it is that makes him so special.
"Sandy more than anything is the only person any of us can put our finger on that always, always has a smile," says Bridges.
In the 80's Sandy started randomly passing out that signature smile and flowers to people on the street. A veteran, he was homeless for several years and says he started giving flowers on a whim excepting money when it was offered.
"I love mother nature, I love flowers and it grew on me," says Sandy.
But after learning that he had colon cancer, surgeries and chemo therapy treatments mean that smile and spirit have been a little less visible these days.
"They're giving me a break right now I was taking it daily and that was taking quite a bit of my energy," says Sandy.
Although Sandy earns everything he needs through odd jobs all over town, medical bills are overwhelming him .
"Suggested that it would be a really good idea to put together a benefit for Sandy because he's done so much for the city," says Bridges.
That suggestion grew and grew into a city wide effort. And all the money will go to Sandy.
"I've yet to meet anyone whose had any occasion where seeing Sandy Bell hasn't brightened their day," says Bridges.
Sandy's friends say it's just their turn to give back a portion of what he's already given them.
"Just pure joy, like I said earlier, I just really want to say thank you," says Sandy.
Dozens of businesses have donated to a live auction that is open on Ebay through July 31st with prizes including an Ocoee River rafting trip, an acupuncture session and a gift certificate for St. John's restaurant. Sandy is set to undergo his next round of chemo in two weeks.