The Right Solutions’ mission is Comforting and Restoring Lives, and we want to share a series of stories about a project that embodies our mission. When completed, Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas will offer beautiful gardens to restore the lives of not only patients of Highlands Oncology Group but also everyone in Northwest Arkansas. The first blog is the story of how the gardens began:
Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas began with a chaplain’s wish and a physician’s quick approval. The Rev. Pamela Cicioni and Dr. J Thaddeus Beck looked out the north window of Highlands Oncology Group and spoke of their great plans for the land before them. Dr. Beck explained what he’d like to see. Then, Rev. Pamela described her plan: beautiful healing gardens.
“Do it,” Dr. Beck said. He would take her idea to the other physicians to see if they would agree. Soon afterward, each physician came to Rev. Pamela, visionary for Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas, and told her, “Yes, Pamela. Yes.”
At that time, Meritt Hutchison, co-founder and board chairwoman for Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas, had just lost her mother to cancer. She called the center to ask if she could plant a tree or create a garden as a way to honor her mother’s memory. Meritt was told there wasn’t a place for that, but a week later, Rev. Pamela called Meritt and told her about her idea for Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas. And they set up a meeting to discuss their visions. After their initial meeting Meritt told Rev. Pamela, “This is going to happen. I have no doubt…”
This wasn’t the first time Rev. Pamela and Meritt spoke. It was when Meritt and her mother found out about her mother’s cancer diagnosis. As the mother and daughter coped with the diagnosis, the surgeon called for the chaplain. But when Rev. Pamela entered the room, Meritt said, “No, we are about living.”
Meritt’s mother was a patient of Highlands Oncology Group for several years, and Meritt would spend a day with her there weekly. They also traveled to a Texas hospital for treatment and saw the outdoor places there. They would visit them to get away. These outdoor places provided inspiration for Meritt’s vision of Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas. This feeling of being able to get away is one she’d like to capture. “The world needs restoration,” Rev. Pamela said. “The world needs healing. A healing gardens will be different than any other garden in Northwest Arkansas.”
Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas has been designed by Howell & Vancuren, the same landscape architect for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and will include a sanctuary, designed by Maurice Jennings + Walter Jennings Architects, PLLC. The 2-acre gardens will also have a secret garden, stone stacking garden, labyrinth prayer walk, waterfall, stream and pool. It will provide an oasis for restoration and healing for not only patients of Highlands Oncology Group but also the entire Northwest Arkansas community. Patients receiving treatment at the center will be able to see the gardens from its second floor. Pathways to the gardens will be accessible to those in wheelchairs. Benches and tables will be included for rest and relaxation. It will be built adjacent to the Razorback Regional Greenway trail that runs through several Northwest Arkansas cities. The City of Rogers has been supportive of this project and looks forward to the addition once funding has been raised.
While the timeline to complete the gardens is tied to fundraising, Meritt, Rev. Pamela and the other board members understand the steps to reach the $5 million to $8 million goal. “It’s just been a God thing all the way a long,” Rev. Pamela said. “I don’t know when, but I know the process to get there.” They’ve learned patience on the journey to build the gardens.
They established a nonprofit organization, started recruiting board members, designed a logo and developed a website. In November 2014, the board hosted a Founders party to reach out to supporters for the project. At the end of the party, nearly 70 supporters scattered seeds onto the land where the gardens will be built. Flowers are blooming where the seeds were tossed onto the ground.
The vision for the gardens has come a long way since Rev. Pamela first described it to Dr. Beck. “I pray every day for Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas,” Rev. Pamela said. And that difficult meeting between Rev. Pamela and Meritt, and those powerful words that Meritt said to Rev. Pamela still ring true today and always: “We are about living.” To learn more about Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas, click here. If you are interested in supporting the project, click here.