When Rosecrance Health Network opened its Griffin Williamson adolescent treatment campus in 2004, program leaders knew that a serenity garden built on six acres would contribute to the healing community they sought to establish. What they found ended up exceeding their expectations in touching the lives of the young people who have experienced the garden's beauty.
“Whenever I am feeling sad, I walk through the gardens and all of my problems seem to go away,” wrote Chris B., an adolescent in the Rosecrance treatment program. Another client, Emma R., wrote, “Whenever I feel weak in recovery, I look out at the garden and I realize that I couldn't enjoy all the beauty of the world under the influence. It reminds me of how much I want recovery.”
The garden accounts for only about 10% of the Griffin Williamson campus in Rockford, Illinois, but it dominates the view from most vantage points on the adolescent campus. Large windows in the adolescent facility offer panoramic views of the garden and its natural stone waterfalls, large boulders, and ponds full of bass, perch, and dazzlingly colorful koi.
It is not unusual for young residents of the Rosecrance treatment program to look out their windows upon awakening and see ducks or geese at the pond or a deer roaming in the surrounding woods. But the garden is meant to be appreciated close up, and the adolescent program offers many such experiences for residents. When the weather is good, group therapy sessions take place amid the garden's restorative surroundings. The garden also offers an ideal setting for family visit time. And counselors often will take walks with clients in the healing environment.
The garden offers residents positive distractions to everyday life and the important opportunity for quiet time and space for reflection. Rosecrance's young clients frequently write about their experiences in the garden, and an art therapist on staff integrated elements of the garden into work with clients.
The garden, described as a natural healing garden with Japanese influences, was designed by renowned landscape designer Hoichi Kurisu of the firm Kurisu International. Kurisu's design for the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford won that natural setting the distinction of being considered the finest Japanese garden in North America and Europe.
Kurisu describes the garden in biological terms, with its large boulders secured from a Wisconsin farm (one weighs 40 tons) representing its bone structure and the waterfalls and pond representing its lifeblood. The water offers a feeling of vibrancy to all who come into contact with it.
The garden's creation was made possible by a donation from the families of John and Linda Anderson and John and Judy Graff. A second phase of the project raised an additional $1 million from individual donors for improvements such as an extended walking path, additional landscaping, and a 12-Step waterfall.
This summer, construction of a Japanese bell tower in the garden will commence, thanks again to a donor's generosity. When an adolescent completes treatment in the Rosecrance program, he/she will go out to the tower to ring the bell, signaling officially to all in the Rosecrance community that someone has embarked on the road to recovery.
“One certainly can get well without a healing garden, but this touches the soul in ways that nothing else can,” says Lynne D. Vass, Rosecrance's vice-president for development.