A Blooming Partnership at Community Cancer Center

Posted by
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – McLean County Master Gardeners have worked diligently with the Community Cancer Center these past two years, developing a 5,000 square foot butterfly garden, a 4,875 square foot terrace garden and a labyrinth with the motivation that gardens can be a place of healing. McLean County Master Gardener, Chris Kraft, says, "Cancer is a disease that we have all been touched by," and that was motivation to help provide a sanctuary of nature for staff, patients, and their families that are now dealing with cancer. She says, "Her garden is her sacred place, and when she sees wildlife, like butterflies, the troubles on her mind melt away."

McLean County Master Gardener Sue Stroyan Farrell has recently experienced the benefits of a healing garden. She spent many days with her family, just sitting in the garden of the Anschutz Medical Center in Colorado, enjoying the flowers and the wildlife. This sanctuary was vital to her while her family member was being treated. She said, "It was a welcome and revitalizing reprieve from being in the hospital."

With the new building additions to our local Normal Community Cancer Center, these two Master Gardeners could not think of a better way to give back to their community than to contribute to developing healing gardens at the Community Cancer Center. Cat Woods, Director of Business and Financial Operations for the center, was thrilled when the Master Gardeners wanted to be involved in the planning, design, installation and maintenance of the project.
They started with a blank slate, and two years later, they have planted trees, over 1,000 plants and over 500 spring blooming bulbs, to create a sustainable, accessible, drought resistant landscape to attract wildlife. Thirty McLean County Master Gardeners contributed over 500 hours in 2016 as part of this labor of love.

Last spring, the Community Cancer Center hosted a monarch butterfly release. 350 members of the community released 400 butterflies in what can only be described as a truly magical experience. Butterflies fluttered in the air, landed on flowers to drink nectar, and some even landed right back people's hands.

Chris and Sue worked along with a committee of Community Cancer Center and Master Gardener volunteers. The unwavering support from a compassionate and positive staff allowed the establishment of a beautiful garden space filled with grace and tranquility. This recent garden renovation could not have been accomplished without three women who set this project in motion over a decade ago: Peggy Swerdik, Barb Nathan, and Sheri Morkin. These women had designed and cared for the butterfly garden that was there before the recent building renovation with the help of Community Cancer Center and Master Gardener volunteers.

Chris and Sue's plans for the future involve hosting a Horticulture Therapy Workshop at the Community Cancer Center on Saturday, June 10. Their goal is to reach out to the community and teach them the endless benefits of gardening and beautification.

The Master Gardeners intend to connect to the youth of our community knowing that if they teach our youth about gardening, they will gain a greater affinity towards nature and therefore, help conserve it. Both former teachers, Chris remembers gardening with her grandmother and passing on that experience to her students by growing vegetables and flowers. Sue planted dahlias with her father and spent 40 years of her career teaching her students about butterflies. She worked to establish butterfly gardens in many of the area schools.

As Chris and Sue can attest, a seed planted today can yield amazing results. The love of gardening instilled in them by their grandparents and parents helped flourish ideas that created a beautiful community garden that will be used for healing, pleasure, and teaching. Make sure that you visit the Community Cancer Center gardens to see the fruit of everyone's labor and a blooming partnership.

Photos Included: University of Illinois Extension; Photos taken at Community Cancer Center, Monarch Release Event