With Acreage Community Park’s southern expansion underway, Garden of Hope President Tracy Newfield made a presentation of its progress to the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, Feb. 21.
Newfield has spearheaded the Garden of Hope project, which will be a place at the park for relaxation and contemplation of loved ones who have been lost, support those fighting for their lives, admiring survivors and never giving up hope.
The Garden of Hope has been raising funds and making care packages for patients who are going through chemotherapy and other difficult treatments.
The group incorporated seven years ago and has been a certified nonprofit for three years.
“It has been a long haul, but I can finally see it coming to fruition,” Newfield said, thanking the board for its support. “I have a lot of people expressing their support toward it.”
The Garden of Hope started with Newfield’s daughter, a brain cancer survivor.
“I attended the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event and was touched by the emotional support and community support that I saw there,” she said. “I thought the [Garden of Hope] would be a good area to have for any people who are going through any kind of illness or emotional [stress]. It’s something to bring their spirits up.”
She said several board members, including Betty Argue, Ralph Bair, Jennifer Hager and Carol Jacobs — a cancer survivor — have worked with her on various aspects of the project.
“Carol has helped me by attending my bingo events,” she said, explaining that both Bair and Jacobs have participated. “Jennifer has also helped me with the American Cancer Society by attending those meetings, and Betty is now helping me with last-minute details.”
Inscribed bricks are still available for sale, and Newfield is working on benches and trees, which will be for sale with plaques to memorialize or honor loved ones.
“Benches and trees are going to be a part of this, and we’re finally at a point where we’ve picked out trees that are affordable. You wouldn’t believe how much benches cost,” she said. “We are reimbursing the district for everything that we’re doing. We put in a bench, we pay for the bench. So, hopefully, we’ll have a lot more benches than any of our other parks.”
The Garden of Hope will also reimburse the district for trees.
“When we started off, we didn’t have bricks because we didn’t have a Garden of Hope, so we started off with events representing our community, and the Garden of Hope represents our community.”
One event with the American Cancer Society is held quarterly with various themes.
“It is very important to get our name out there and let people know this is coming,” Newfield said. “We collected Christmas cards for troops. We collected toys for hospitals and just grew and grew. We will provide baked goods for the grand opening when that happens. We will hold a special ceremony by the garden.”
Garden of Hope participants have also given personalized care packages to children in hospitals.
“We have a lot of charities that do so much giving,” Newfield said. “Ours tends to be a little smaller and focused on one child at a time. There are times when we give large bulk, but we tend to focus on one child. We had a few college kids diagnosed with an illness right before attending college. We helped design their college dorm rooms.”
For two years, the organization has chosen one family per month to help with a personalized donation. “I don’t pay their medical bills, but I know what it’s like to have a sick child, and to bring some sort of happiness to a long day of medication or a long day of bad news,” Newfield said.
They helped one young woman — who passed away recently at age 18 — go skydiving.
“She was cancer free for about three months,” Newfield said. “I saw on Facebook that she wished she could go skydiving. I checked with her parents, and I partnered with Little Smiles.”
She has also partnered with students at Seminole Ridge High School to hold toy drives and go with her to hospitals to visit sick children.
Garden of Hope has a web site at www.gardenofhope.net where people can sign up and make donations, buy engraved bricks, benches or trees for the garden, and learn more about the overall project.
“We also have a Facebook page, which I am very proud of, and it gives you new ideas on health and well-being, along with stories of hope,” Newfield said. “Now that we’re under construction, we’re coming right along.”