Spiral Garden: A Space for All Children
It can be difficult for anyone to fit in. Children and youth with disabilities can find it especially difficult to find a place where they feel comfortable to express themselves and engage with others. The city of Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital has offered a very unique space for this exact purpose since 1984. Spiral Garden is described by the hospital as “an integrated outdoor art, garden and play program.” Children aged eight to sixteen are allowed to attend this program coordinated by professional artists. Children with and without disabilities are welcome to join.
The activities at the garden include a rich variety of activities. Children can do everything from create puppets, practice woodworking, and of course, hone their gardening skills. Participants have the freedom to spend as much or as little time as they wish with each activity. The volunteers ensure that everyone is able to find the things they truly enjoy and their own unique way to express themselves.
Isabelle Feldman, a young girl with multiple medical issues that include congenital heart disease, experienced an increase in confidence and independence by attending Spiral Garden. She discovered a love for art and a passion for pottery and finger painting that she never knew she had. Engaging with the other children and her burgeoning confidence inspired her to use her walker less to move around. Zach Rayment, a boy with Cerebral Palsy, discovered his love of music at Spiral Garden. He was able to break free of the seclusion he previously experienced and has eagerly explored the many artistic pursuits the site has to offer. These are just two stories of many from Spiral Garden’s long history.
Volunteers and artists have the chance to profoundly affect the lives of many children dealing with a myriad of circumstances. Lynn Simmons, a musician who has taught music at Spiral Garden for at least 25 years, noted that “when it comes down to it, we all need help.” By playing and learning together, these children learn that they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, that every single one of them needs help at one point or another. Kids with disabilities are often accompanied by their able-bodied siblings, and they quickly learn that they have just as much to offer when it comes to artistic expression. The program can accommodate 60 children, with up to 30 of them afflicted with a disability. This is crucial to Spiral Garden’s success by helping all of the participants find their value and feel equal, no matter what circumstances they may find themselves in.
Sessions at Spiral Garden are for two weeks, and run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. There are four sessions that run throughout the summer months. If this sounds like the ideal program for your child or a child you know, the website will offer a registration form for 2017 as the summer months approach.
Ferenc, Leslie. Camper blossoms at Spiral Garden summer camp. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/initiatives/fresh_air_fund/2014/06/20/camper_blossoms_at_spiral_garden_summer_camp.html
Holland Bloorview. Spiral Garden. http://hollandbloorview.ca/programsandservices/programsservicesaz/spiralgarden
Sunshine, Fannie. Kids with and without disabilities both enjoy Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital’s Spiral Garden summer program. InsideToronto.com. http://www.insidetoronto.com/news-story/6773923-kids-with-and-without-disabilities-both-enjoy-holland-bloorview-kids-rehabilitation-hospital-s-spira/