From the Forest, For the Forest since 1995

A Backyard Pavilion Offers Shade—and Healing

Aerial view—a Forever Redwood Backyard Pavilion forms the “body” of On With LIfe’s Butterfly Garden

When On With Life, a not-for-profit brain injury rehab provider, began treating a young woman who’d suffered a traumatic brain injury, the rehabilitation team mobilized around the high school senior’s most important recovery goal—attending prom.

“We don’t set the goals. The patient does,” said Abby Bogaards, MHA, a marketing specialist with On With Life. This unique, person-centered approach means On With Life shapes its rehab programs to fit the people they serve, not vice versa.

The young woman’s treatment plan involved dressing for prom, dancing, and selecting music. For others, it might be gardening or golf, activities which On With Life offers on its recently completed “therapeutic grounds”—a 1.5-acre expanse of ADA-accessible outdoor space funded entirely by philanthropy.

“The grounds allow us to put person-served interests and goals, from the real world, at the center of our therapy,” said Abby. “They can dig in the dirt, fix a tractor, and take shade in the Butterfly Garden.”

The Butterfly Garden, which is actually shaped like a giant butterfly, provides a charming place for repose and reflection. But it’s also an example of On With Life’s cutting-edge approach to brain injury rehab. A master gardener selected plants with soft textures and smells to stimulate a recovering person’s senses in specific ways, including those people in disorders of consciousness (an updated term for coma). Therapists or families take them outside in their wheelchairs and help them feel the different textures and smell the different scents. Often a butterfly will alight on a visitor since the plants were also chosen for their attractiveness to butterflies.

At the heart of the Butterfly Garden, a spacious (30’x10’) Forever Redwood Backyard Pavilion provides shade and a venue for small events. On With Life’s Environmental Designer/Planner, Cindy Friedrichsen, oversaw the selection and installation of the pavilion. She was drawn to work with Forever Redwood because of her childhood love of the redwood forests. Naturally, she chose redwood as the material, both for its beauty and durability. She also selected a vertical post decorative trim to complement the wood. The addition of asphalt roofing is on her spring to-do list.

Unveiling the pavilion and Butterfly Garden at On With Life’s fundraising event

Cindy appreciated her interactions with Forever Redwood during both the research and the manufacturing phases of the project. “Raul was very interested in our design and what we were trying to accomplish,” she said, referring to Raul Hernandez, Forever Redwood’s Founder and CEO. “He sent us pictures of the pavilion as it was built and then disassembled for shipping. He was a pleasure to talk to.”

Once the pavilion kit arrived, a group of volunteers was able to erect it in a day. The posts were anchored to withstand the Midwest temperatures and winds, ensuring that the people served by On With Life will continue to find shade, pleasure, and healing beneath the pavilion for years to come.

On With Life is located in Ankeny, IA. Learn more about their important work here.

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