CHOP’s Gardens - A Bright Spot for Healing and Renewal

Published on in Children's View

CHOP GardensOn a recent morning at the Sea Garden, an outdoor space off the third floor of Children’s Seashore House, baskets were being filled with harvested basil, kale, peppers and chives. Patients and staff members from Occupational Therapy, Child Life and Nursing watered, pruned and planted alongside volunteers from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The herbs and veggies are more than just tasty; occupational therapists use them to help patients develop meal-preparation and cooking skills. That basil is a learning opportunity.

The Sea Garden is one of five distinctive gardens at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that function as colorful, fragrant and living extensions of CHOP’s mission to help all children reach their potential.

Cultivating community

The public can enjoy certain CHOP gardens, including the creatively landscaped plaza gardens on the Raymond G. Perelman Campus on the south side of Civic Center Boulevard. Peaceful pathways wind through the 2.6-acre plaza’s medicinal garden, perennial garden and grove. Gentle sounds of splashing and bubbling emanate from three water features.

At the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia, an active community vegetable garden debuted in July. The space hosts educational activities, community events and cooking demonstrations based on what’s in season, and surplus food is distributed to Early Head Start families through CHOP’s partnership with the Enterprise Center, a community development organization.

Nurturing patients and families

The new Barbara Brodsky Healing Garden, located outside the Main Building Food Court, serves as a sanctuary for families and staff members experiencing stress. Likewise created with patients and families in mind is a rooftop garden that will open in early 2017 atop the year-old Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care located on the Raymond G. Perelman Campus. A prime example of green architecture, its 14,000 square feet were designed to represent Philadelphia: Planter boxes and garden beds are laid out in a grid that represents the city, and the water feature running through the middle simulates the Schuylkill River. Physical and occupational therapists will use the garden’s curbs and multiple surfaces to help patients learn to navigate various environments.

All these green spaces have the potential to encourage healthy choices, facilitate relaxation and create opportunities for therapy. Alison Marx, operations officer for the Department of Pediatrics, led the Sea Garden’s inception in 2012, and she sees its positive effects all the time, such as in the sister of a CHOP patient who became an enthusiastic gardener. “She then told her mother she wanted to plant a garden at home and cook with the vegetables,” reports Marx. As a setting for everything from art projects to movie nights, “The Sea Garden has truly blossomed even beyond our happiest expectations,” says Marx. With the help of philanthropy, volunteers and staff, CHOP is committed to creating places of joy, healing, respite and renewal.