McLean gardeners sow blooming partnership with cancer center

Chronicle Media

The garden at the Community Cancer Center in Normal took two years to develop. (Photo courtesy of University of Illinois Extension)

McLean County Master Gardeners have worked diligently with the Community Cancer Center this 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 said, “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.

“Her garden is her sacred place, and when she sees wildlife, like butterflies, the troubles on her mind melt away,” Kraft said.

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.
“It was a welcome and revitalizing reprieve from being in the hospital,” Farrell said.

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 development healing gardens at the Community Cancer Center.

Director of Business and Financial Operations for the center Cat Woods 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, more than 1,000 plants and over 500 spring blooming bulbs, to create a sustainable, accessible, drought resistant landscape to attract wildlife.

About 30 McLean County Master Gardeners contributed more than 500 hours in 2016 to the project.

Last spring, the Community Cancer Center hosted a monarch butterfly release at which 350 members of the community released 400 butterflies.

Kraft and Farrell worked with a committee of Community Cancer Center and Master Gardener volunteers. 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.

Kraft and Farrell plan tp host a Horticulture Therapy Workshop at the Community Cancer Center on Saturday, June 10.

In addition, Kraft and Farrell, both former teachers, intend to connect to the youth of our community knowing that if they teach our youth about gardening. Kraft worked to establish butterfly gardens in many of the area schools.





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