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‘Therapy Gardening’ Harvests Good Vibes For Mind, And Body In Wheaton

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By Lauren Victory

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    WHEATON, Illinois (WBBM) — Sunshine and seedlings–it is a combo that’s creating a lot of happiness and healing in the western suburbs.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside a garden therapy club that’s re-growing after an off-season.

The wheels are motion at DuPage Care Center in Wheaton, and garden club members are back making rounds.

Seeds and weeds are accessible from a wheelchair because the beds are raised.

“There’s something inspirational about having your hands in the soil, breathing in the fresh air, watching the plants grow,” said Joyce Johnston, a first-year gardener at the center.

John Boyle is a first-timer even though it’s his second year at the nursing home. COVID-19 kept residents locked inside and away from the gardens in 2020.

Boyle loves joining the group once a week. “I mean it’s nice to get out for one thing,” he said.

Amy Bakker says she tried to re-create the magic with house plants last year… but it wasn’t the same.

“I just love to be outdoors and being able to garden like I used to do when I had my home,” said Bakker, who has been with the club for five years.

The 45 resident growers have all sorts of medical conditions. Gardening is considered recreational therapy.

Good for the mind and “people don’t even notice that they’re exercising their hands, their bodies,” said Henry Parker, who has coordinated the program for decades.

New this season: a pollinator plot that brings bees and more to the veggies and flowers.

Volunteers, called master gardeners and trained through the Agricultural School at the University of Illinois, bring good company and good advice.

“If we can’t like, dig in the mud – like some people can’t use their hands – they will do it for us,” said Bakker. “However we want it. We just tell them and they are so helpful.”

It’ll be a while longer until the crops fully come in.

At least 2020 harvested patience.

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