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Anderson Gardens partnership provides paths to renewal

Collaboration originally started as a way to show clients the value of community service.

Like flowers blossoming throughout the year, healthy behaviors and attitudes take time to grow. For an individual in treatment or early in the recovery journey, guided activities away from Rosecrance venues can provide the fertile soil in which lasting life change takes root.

For the past eight years, a partnership with Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford has provided Rosecrance clients and Alumni opportunities to experience the city while experiencing nature in a new way. Collaboration originally started as a way to show clients the value of community service, and now multiple experiential therapies connect clients and Alumni with the gardens’ healing touch.

Adolescents at the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus work at the gardens a couple hours each week when weather permits. Directed by Anderson Gardens horticulturist Catherine Marsh, they perform a variety of beautification and maintenance projects on the grounds. These may not generate excitement at first, but through weeding, mulching, cleaning, and other labor-intensive tasks, clients recognize their impact on the grounds and begin to connect with nature. Throughout the visits, recovery values of mindfulness, meditation, and spirituality are woven into the time as well.

“So much of what we teach through therapeutic recreation requires repetition and exposure that can’t fully happen in the controlled environment of our sites,” said Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator Abby Nelson. “By bringing them to Anderson Gardens, we help them understand the bigger picture in life and give them a local example of something they can utilize in recovery long after they leave our care.”

In addition to connecting to the land through work, Rosecrance Alumni and Marlowe House clients participate in Anderson Gardens’ Path to Renewal. This is a program that takes participants through a series of self-guided contemplative walks through the outdoors.

Through these experiences, individuals learn more about themselves and the world around them. Nelson also notes that gardens are natural safe spaces in which clients find clarity to share thoughts with group members or counselors.

“Beauty and silence allow you to become aware of what is happening, and because of that, so many people take the vulnerable step of opening up,” she said. “It’s amazing to see clients’ growth as they discover themselves through these off-site activities.”

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