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Hope In Bloom helps cancer victims with gardens
“No one grows old by living, just by losing interest in living,” Mari Beyon Ray, psychologist and author, once stated.
Often times, when a person is ill, their interest in living wanes and their battle for life is lost. In Massachusetts, Roberta Dehman Hershon set out to give women and men battling breast cancer hope for a better tomorrow. After losing a close friend to breast cancer, she started a volunteer organization called HopeInBloom.org, which creates personal gardens for people with breast cancer.
One garden at a time, Hershon's dream of helping others is coming true.
Her organization supplies the plants, and Hope volunteers plant the gardens. Often, local landscape architects and contractors donate their expertise and materials. If needed, Hope in Bloom maintains the garden for the first season while the person recuperates and learns the ropes of gardening, since some have never gardened before.
“When I started this project, I wanted to help as many cancer patients as possible in Massachusetts feel good about themselves and have a garden where they could find happiness and relief from the daily battle they were waging against breast cancer. We started with one garden in 2007 and have finished 118 gardens so far,” Hershon said.
According to the latest survey taken by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute, more than 211,000 men and women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually, and thousands lose the battle against this aggressive disease. The four words women fear most - “You have breast cancer” - are now being heard by one in seven, translating to a new diagnosis every two minutes.
“We have a waiting list of over 200 people and just need more funds to create their gardens,” Hershon said. “We don't qualify for any federal programs and rely strictly upon private donations. If people could see the excitement these women and men feel when entering their own special garden for the first time, I know we would have many more donations.”
Massachusetts residents are creative in helping Hope in Bloom. One high school student, Erica Greenberg, started a photography club where club members took photographs of flowers and gardens, turned them into note cards and sold the cards.
“During my freshman year of high school, I heard about Hope in Bloom. I had relatives who had battled cancer, and I was touched by the idea of giving gardens to cancer patients. I wanted to help and started the photography club with just myself and my best friend. By my senior year, the club was going strong, and we were donating much-needed funds to help Hope in Bloom keep gardening. During my four years of high school, we raised over $8,000. The club is still going strong; and since I graduated, it has raised an additional $2,000.”
When asked about the personal benefits volunteering offers, Erica said, “Students today are looking for ways to help society, and what better way than finding a local organization that helps local people and becoming involved in that organization's fund-raising activities or participating directly as a volunteer in the organization's work. I wanted to be part of our local community who helped others in need. Starting the photography club was my way of helping out. It gave me a huge sense of satisfaction knowing I was helping cancer patients feel better and respond better to their treatments.”
“It is through the generosity of so many people like Erica, who donate funds or volunteer to help with a garden project, that allow us to continue to aid those faced with the tough challenge of coping with breast cancer,” Hershon said.
“Recently, a darling 11-year-old, whose mother received a garden, wanted to help our program. She asked children at her school to wear a wig or cap for a day, with people donating to those children who participated. The event raised over $500. I think helping others gives children a great sense of compassion and a sense of pride in knowing they can make a difference.”
Each Hope in Bloom garden is designed to meet the special interests of the person who receives it. Coleen Bevacqua, a master diver, received a water garden; the perfect spot to sit and enjoy nature during her treatments. Another garden recipient, a nurse and mother of a 4-year-old son, was given not only a beautiful garden but also a complete yard renovation donated by a local landscaping firm. A retired teacher battling breast cancer received a garden with the help of both Hope in Bloom and her teaching colleagues who planted the garden.
One recipient stated a common feeling among the men and women who have received gardens when she said that she was still alive not only because of her medical treatments but because of gifts of love and caring, such as her garden, which have given her profound strength to carry on.
“We have so many happy stories of how our gardens have helped people recuperate. Several women who received a garden were in cancer stages 3 or 4, which is usually terminal. After medical treatments, they are now cancer free. I like to think that their gardens helped in the healing process. When you feel positive and happy, your body responds better to cancer treatments and heals more quickly,” Hershon stated.
Gardening offers everyone a multitude of positive benefits, such as stress relief, good physical exercise and improved feelings of well-being. “Where flowers grow, so does hope” is a wonderful way to describe the joy of gardening. If interested in learning more about gardening, visit one of our local garden clubs. Monthly programs offer lots of information for successful gardening, and you don't have to be a gardener to join. To learn more about Yuma's garden clubs, visit fgcyuma.org.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but any month is a good time to donate to your favorite organization working in this field. If you wish to donate to Hope in Bloom, a 501(c)(3) corporation, visit their website, hopeinbloom.org, or call 781-381-3597.