Seeds of Hope Garden Party benefits $5.6 million Healing Gardens project

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 1,270 views 

In 2012, Rev. Pamela Cicioni and Meritt Hutchinson, who had recently lost her mother to cancer, began dreaming about creating a healing garden in Northwest Arkansas.

That dream drew one step closer to becoming reality on Thursday (July 27) as a sold out crowd of 350 people came together at the Seeds of Hope Garden Party to raise an estimated $75,000 towards funding the garden.

The Healing Gardens of Northwest Arkansas, a 501c3 organization, is “a state of the art garden space campus alongside the Razorback Greenway and designed to enhance the quality of life for Northwest Arkansas and beyond,” according to their website.

Physicians, staff and former patients and families who received cancer-care treatment at Highlands Oncology Group initiated the project, and the gardens will be located on 2.2 acres directly behind Highland Oncology in Rogers. The Highland Oncology doctors gifted the land to the Healing Gardens with a 100-year land lease – including a 50 year extension – at $1 per year. Organizers are hoping to break ground in 2018, with a scheduled completion date of 2020. The cost of the project will total $5.6 million.

Keynote speaker Dr. Gary Oliver, executive director for the Center of Healthy Relationships at John Brown University, spoke on cultivating gratitude and joy, and how to be more than just a survivor. Oliver said he has had cancer seven times and has lost four family members to cancer.

Artist’s rendering of the completed Healing Gardens of NWA, from The Healing Gardens website.

“I’m about hope tonight and encouragement – from someone who has been through it more than most have,” he said. “We can utilize our loss through gratitude and grief to actually make a difference in the lives of others.”

Dr. Gary Oliver, keynote speaker and executive director for The Center for Healthy Relationships, and Rachel Cox, executive director of the Healing Gardens of NWA.

Oliver said that he believes the Healing Garden will be a huge gift to the community.

“The impact of a place where you can have solitude, quiet, beauty, nature, water…,” he said. “I have patients who suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety disorder, have marital problems… and they need a place to get away and reflect on God and themselves. Nature is so healing. It’s its own kind of therapy.”

The finished garden will include walking paths, a waterfall, a reflecting pool, stone stacking, a labyrinth, a secret garden, a sanctuary and a gathering area. Rachel Cox, executive director, said the Healing Garden is founded on four pillars: health and wellness, education, arts integration and community building.

“On evenings and weekends, when its completed, we want to have classes, events or offerings that promote family bonding,” Cox said. “We may have a s’mores night; or we may do candlelight vigils, if there are organizations that need to do that. Or, we might have music in the gardens one night.”

Cox said the group is pursuing a comprehensive campaign – not just a capital campaign – so that funds will be available in the future to help with maintenance and operation of the gardens.

Vicki and Lance Petree, honorary chairs of the fundraiser, in memory of Mr. Rick Petree.

Honorary chairs for the fundraiser were Vicki and Lance Petree, whose husband and father passed away from cancer. The garden was one of his visions, organizers said. The evening also featured a silent auction and dancing to music by The Band Woodland. A live auction included items such as a sunset cruise for two on Beaver Lake, a 6-night stay at a boutique hotel in Cabo San Lucas and a 6-night stay in a mansion resort in Cabo San Lucas, valued at $36,578.

Sponsors for the evening included Harps, Rich’s, Clorox, Nestle, Highland Oncology Group and Chick-fil-A.