Blossoming Garden of Hope opens to the public

After almost six years of groundwork, the Blossoming Garden of Hope is open to the public.

The garden gives grieving families a place in the city to mourn and remember their children.

A family of geese, two teddy bears holding a heart are among the sculptures here; positive messages are shared on benches along the walking path in the garden.

“We wanted it to be a place of healing and having hope because I think that's that's what happens a lot of times when a child dies; we don't know if we'll ever be okay, we don't know if we'll ever see a resemblance of who we used to be,” said Karen Gilkyson, co-founder of Tiny Hands of Hope, who helped facilitate the project.

The park is in Maskwôtêh Park, just east of the new hospital.

Gilkyson says 89 trees have been planted in the garden and will blossom in the spring.

“In the springtime, you're going to see beautiful pink blossoms, so the blossoms are there to represent a short, beautiful life but also to pull people out of their grief to give them hope,” she said.

“The one thing for me, being a bereaved parent, is things can feel very lonely and very dark, and the feeling I get walking through those front gates essentially is it's just uplifting,” said Elizabeth Naeth, president of Grande Prairie Compassionate Friends.

“It's this weight off my shoulder, it's walking into this space of beauty and being surrounded by nature, and all of these beautiful sculptures and shrubs and picnic tables and seeing all the things that I can do with my family to grieve.”

She said the garden will become a place for families to gather; she noted that many people come to her asking what they can do to help someone grieving the loss of a child.

“There are members in the community that will come to me and say, ‘my friend just lost their child, how can we help? what can we do?’ They can come here.”

Naeth says the garden will provide a space for healing and supporting those who need it in the community.

“​​The ripple effect when someone loses their child, this ripple affects the teachers, the first responders, the nurses, the doctors, this list goes on and for there to be a space for all of those people included in this giant ripple, and then you think of all of the families who have lost their child. This is just an enormous ripple, and this is what we have for them.”

It took a community to build the garden.

“This really is a community garden because so it took a small army to put this together,” said Gilkyson.

The garden was made possible by many volunteers and donors, including the City of Grande Prairie, the County of Grande Prairie, and private donors. The garden's total cost is expected to be around $410,000.

Now that the garden is complete, it is owned by the city, which will also maintain the garden.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News