The Garden of Hope at Acreage Community Park is landscaped and near ready for opening — along with the general opening of the park’s entire southern expansion — after more than a decade of discussion and preparation.
“It took a long time, but it’s happening,” said Tracy Newfield, the founder and leader of the Garden of Hope project, which features a sidewalk in the shape of a ribbon commemorating cancer victims and survivors, as well as many others.
A date has not yet been set for a grand opening, but Newfield estimates late 2019 or early 2020 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“We don’t have anything planned at the moment because we’re still working on the rest of the park, but whenever they choose a date, we will definitely have a ribbon cutting and invite all the people who have purchased bricks to come out, and we will be giving out goody bags and have some baked treats and things,” Newfield said.
She said plenty of commemorative bricks are still available for sale memorializing loved ones who have succumbed to cancer or other types of misfortune, although the park’s sidewalk has already been laid.
“Right now, when you place your order, you won’t have it in time for the grand opening because there’s six weeks’ processing time,” she said. “We also have benches and trees that you can find on the web site [www.gardenofhope.net] that can be sponsored.”
Newfield got the idea of building a park dedicated to cancer victims and survivors after her daughter, Jessica Newfield, now 26, was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 11. “She was part of the children diagnosed out here,” Newfield said. “Because of her diagnosis and meeting all the families with diagnoses, I had attended a Relay for Life event at one of our parks and heard that the park expansion was happening.”
She contacted the Indian Trail Improvement District about getting involved. “I had this project pictured in my head, with the ribbon and brick inscriptions,” Newfield recalled. “I asked if they would allow me to develop that.”
She said all the members of the ITID board have been supportive in her effort over the years.
“In the last two years, it has been [ITID President] Betty Argue who has really picked the ball up and got it farther than it has in the last 10 years,” Newfield said.
With the Garden of Hope design and delays of park construction, Newfield knew that the Garden of Hope would not become reality right away, so she started other projects.
“I wanted to start helping families right away, so my daughter and I started making these care packages, and we would deliver them to the families of sick people, mostly children, in hospitals or in their homes,” she said.
Newfield and her supporters also started hosting bingo fundraisers to help cancer victim families. “We did one family per month for about two years straight,” she said.
Other members of the community have helped in Newfield’s efforts, specifically Paulette DeCarlo, whose daughter is a cancer survivor, Maryanne Degirolarmo, Joyce Gorring and Peggy May.
“They have really helped me whenever I was hosting an event,” Newfield said. “Actually, the community was very helpful, always donating items or care packages or prizes for my bingo events. Without the community support with items for prizes and care packages, I would have never been able to pull it off.”
She stressed that the Garden of Hope is dedicated not just to cancer victims.
“I have kids who have died in car accidents out in The Acreage. I have suicides. I have many forms of survivors,” Newfield said. “My motto is, ‘Supporting the fighters, admiring the survivors and honoring the taken.’”
Although no specific date has been set for the Garden of Hope’s opening, she said it will be simultaneous with the general park opening.