Memorial garden grows at Johnston-Willis Hospital
Steven Cohen and Melanie Huber-Cohen with BCLS Landscape Services donate four new benches.
For the past 28 years, the memorial garden at Johnston-Willis Hospital has provided a gathering space for the cancer community. Robin Yoder, an oncology social worker at Chippenham and Johnston-Willis Hospitals' Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute, started the garden and has maintained it throughout her career along with colleagues and patients’ families. When she joined the hospital, she had a vision for an outdoor space for people to congregate and connect, so she used old bricks from her grandfather to build a path and an herb garden – and the very first Cancer Survivors Day celebration was held outside the hospital. Over the years, the garden developed into more than a meeting space. Families held memorial services and planted landscaping in honor of loved ones.
“A culture was developed within the cancer community and we have been a part of watching what this space means to patients,” Yoder said. “It became something that patients built, created, and owned personally.”
Recent construction at the hospital impacted the garden and local BCLS Landscape Services was contracted to help with the changes. When owners Steven Cohen and Melannie Huber-Cohen saw the space and felt the weight of its importance, they felt compelled to personally donate four new benches.
“I think the emotions at the first meeting with the park committee drove all my personal inspirations for the project from the design concept through completion,” Cohen said. “My wife and I are faith-driven people and we believe in helping others … I hope that I can be part of this park’s evolution for years to come, but more importantly I truly hope others have solace when visiting.”
There was a re-dedication of the garden with patients, and Yoder said she looks forward to holding next year’s Cancer Survivors Day in the space.
“I recognize the kindness and emotion behind [the bench donation],” Yoder said. “I am appreciative of their thoughtfulness of that little space.”