A garden for healing
From the window of Lynn Stewart’s cancer treatment room, she’s watched as the 8,000-square-foot hillside outside has been transformed into a spectacular garden of native trees and perennials.
She’s been battling ovarian cancer since 2014, periodically being treated here.
“Now we have something lovely to look at,” she says. “It’s just pleasing.”
The garden runs parallel to the rooms at Hillman Cancer Center in the Baierl Pavilion at UPMC Passavant in McCandless.
Today, she’s meeting the 15-year-old Boy Scout for the first time who’s behind this landscape. Jaime Martinez made the garden for his Boy Scout Eagle Award service project. As they shake hands, she thanks him.
“I thought it was fantastic that he cared enough,” she says. “He’s a great kid.”
Martinez humbly replies, “Thank you.”
The two walk along the new retaining wall at the base of the garden.
“It’s one of the biggest rewards,” he says of meeting Stewart. “Seeing someone who is so happy with the product is inspiring.”
It began when he was only 13, after receiving an email forwarded from his Scout district from the Passavant Hospital Foundation wondering if there was a Boy Scout who might be interested in building this garden.
“As soon as I saw it, I sent an email to my dad and said, ‘Dad, I have to do this. This is so cool.’ ”
It was the perfect fit for Martinez of McCandless and a member of Troop 171, as he dreams of being a neurosurgeon and was looking for a project at a hospital.
“I was putting a lot of thought into it,” he says of his service project, “trying to do something that would stand out, that would be everlasting.”
Fay Morgan, president/CEO of the Passavant Hospital Foundation, had some reservations at first, because Martinez was so young. It didn’t take long though for him to win her over.
“He was very articulate, intelligent, that was clear, he wasn’t intimidated by the project,” she says. “He came to meet me and the rest is history. We just had a fantastic working relationship.”
Landscape architects FMG Fahringer McCarty Grey Inc. offered to create the garden design for free and worked with Martinez to come up with the right plan.
A collaborative effort among FMG, Martinez and Will Kmetz, a branch manager for JML Landscaping in Fox Chapel, finalized the plan. Kmetz provided professional advice on filling the requirements for the design and worked with Martinez on what to plant and how to plant it.
“It was tough taking orders from a 15-year-old,” says Kmetz, who also is an Eagle Scout and knew the importance of letting Martinez do a lot of the work.
The project was “near and dear to my heart,” he says. “I wanted to give back to the Scouts. I needed to be a mentor, but he needed to take ownership.”
Martinez used a variety of local fundraising events and Crowdrise on the Internet receiving a total of $37,426 in donations. The money was used for creating the garden, including a retaining wall, and improving the soil.
Kmetz recommended many native trees like redbud and dogwood, along with shrubs like burning bush, a paperbark maple, inkberry and perennials. Spring blooming bulbs will be planted this fall to complete the garden. It ended up costing $34,228 with the remaining funds donated to the Cancer Care Fund at Passavant Hospital Foundation.
This garden continued from another that was planted in 2012. Tibby’s Healing Garden was made possible by Joseph and Lynn Badamo of McCandless, honoring the life of a dear neighbor who passed away from cancer. They attended the ribbon cutting of the new garden on June 5.
“I think it turned out perfect,” Martinez says. “I couldn’t of thought of anything better. The way it all came together was really magnificent. I just want to give thanks to the community, without them we would have gotten past step one.”
After meeting Stewart, he’s seen with his own eyes how patients have been affected by the garden.
“If there’s anything to lessen the pain of the treatment,” he says, “something to make them feel at home, that’s what I hope they get out of it.”
To see the fundraising video of Martinez go to trib.me/ScoutGarden.
Doug Oster is the 535mediarack home and garden editor. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @dougoster1. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodygardens.com.