Garden of Hope offers comfort, strength for cancer patients

NEW ULM With a small, but very touching dedication ceremony on Thursday, the Garden of Hope at the New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) has officially been opened.

Many committee members, staff, patients and friends came to see the result of their dreams.

The opening ceremony was dedicated to those whose lives have been touched by cancer. It was a day not only to remember them, but also to acknowledge the hundreds of individuals who gave over half a million dollars of donations to expand the Cancer Center and to create a beautiful new garden that will inspire hope among patients.

“We have been waiting for this for four years now. It was Barb Fenske and some other fellow patients’ dream to turn this excuse me eyesore into a space that inspires people. We got to work and have created some amazing things,” said Carisa Buegler, NUMC Foundation director, as she greeted the audience of about 75 people who had come to be part of the dedication. “The garden is fully funded by donations which we are really thankful for,” she added.

The highlights in the garden besides the gorgeous flowers that have been planted and the inviting benches that have been installed are the soothing, nature-related water feature as well as the Wall of Hope. The fountain, which is made of copper leaves, was given to the Garden Committee by an anonymous donor who had found the piece in Colorado. And what used to be an unattractive concrete wall has been turned into a beautiful display for 10 mosaics.

“The five images and the five words – ‘hope,’ ‘strength,’ ‘faith,’ ‘love’ and ‘laugh’ – were selected by our patients. Our artist, Bridget Gulden-Gusso, then put in over 30 hours of work per picture to make the vision come to life,” Buegler explained. The 10 themes define the patients’ journeys and their sources of inspiration.

Deb Stenger, an oncology patient at the Center, put it in her own words: “The garden inspires us to keep fighting and makes us continue to be stronger together.”

As another symbol of inspiration and to mark the occasion, committee member Wendy Guggisberg had the idea to release 12 monarch butterflies.

“Sometimes we just have to let go of everything we know to embrace what is yet to come,” Buegler said, referring the monarch release.

At the top of the stairs, a sign welcomes visitors to the garden. “In memory of Barb Fenske,” it reads.

Fenske was a leader in the Cancer Center Campaign who had the vision for a garden that would comfort, inspire, distract and help the patients at Virginia Piper Cancer Institute New Ulm. Sadly, she lost her battle to cancer before the project was completed. In recognition of her tireless efforts, the Garden of Hope is dedicated in her memory.

“I am sure, she is with us today,” said Buegler.

“She would love the garden just as much as I do,” added Bruce Fenske, Barb’s husband, who also served on the Garden of Hope committee.

“The garden really seems to bring people together. A lot of our staff, but also patients and visitors have been using it so far. We are very proud of it,” concluded Buegler.

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