Franklin-based nonprofit organization the Conservancy for Healing and Heritage is more than halfway to its $5 million fundraising goal to open a public healing garden on 36 acres of land adjacent to the Wheaton Franciscan Cancer Care-Reiman Center.
The Conservancy said it has raised about $2.5 million for the project and needs another $2.4 million to meet its goal of opening the nature preserve at 7410 W. Rawson Ave. in Franklin to the public in the fall.
When finished, the project will include a healing garden, series of trails and an already-completed chapel that was donated by the Reiman Family Foundation. All of it will be available to the 7,000 cancer patients that the Reiman Center serves annually, as well as the public.
“We can’t wait for this beautiful vision to come to life for people of all ages who are seeking support, comfort, inspiration or rejuvenation in times of physical, emotional, or mental distress brought on by diseases such as cancer, depression or PTSD,” said Michael Murry, chairman of the Conservancy for Healing and Heritage.
In December, the garden space and upper trail were cleared and the healing garden sidewalk was prepared for concrete placement. Murry said the organization is aiming to raise the remaining funds by May, with plans to finish construction by the fall.
Once the project is completed, the Conservancy plans to offer healing classes and lectures in the chapel, opportunities for the community to maintain the garden and trails, as well as conservation and wildlife education.
Healing gardens have been springing up at health care facilities in recent years, backed by research that suggests a strong connection between nature and healing.
“The Japanese pastime of forest bathing has a number of purported and proven benefits with regards to health, immunity and stress reduction,” said Michael Christensen, radiation oncologist at the Reiman Center. “I am thrilled that our patients will have ready access to the Conservancy for Healing and Heritage, giving them and the community at-large an opportunity to enjoy the restorative benefits of nature.”
The idea of creating a healing garden near the Reiman Center traces back to 2000, when the facility was constructed, Murry said. The Conservancy purchased the land for $1 million from the Polish Center in 2005. Prior to that, it wasn’t accessible to the public.
The land was born of one of the last Ice Age glaciers in the region that created a steep gravel ridge and retreated, leaving behind an enormous block of ice buried in the outwash. That cube melted to become Kopmeier Lake.
The Kopmeier family originally owned the land, but it was later placed into a conservancy to protect it from future development.