Dirt is underrated …
The good kind of dirt. Dark and damp. Rich, fertile soil that gets on your clothes and under your fingernails and smells like potential.
At this moment, a 13-year-old patient named Kelly and Nick Hamilton, P.T.A., are up to their elbows in it. They are tucked away toward the back perimeter of the hospital’s therapy playground, tending a small horseshoe-shaped garden bed that had long been dormant. Until now.
“Can you water that in?” Nick says.
“I’ve got this,” says Kelly, stretching forward in her wheelchair.
Slowly and not without effort, she grasps the watering can and soaks some newly planted strawberry seeds. But there’s more that’s growing here.
“We’ll have tomatoes,” Kelly says, happily. “And peas, basil, cilantro, spearmint, bell peppers, collard greens and red romaine lettuce.”
This all began — like so many good things do — with a problem to solve.
Kelly’s therapist was looking for new ways to motivate this teen, who was struggling to get excited about yet another physical therapy session. After all, she’d had so many — since she was a baby, in fact. Kelly has spent much of her young life trying to outsmart or overcome the neuromuscular issues that have taxed her body and challenged her spirit.
A few weeks ago, a visit to the playground during a therapy session sparked an idea. … Kelly had done some gardening at home, and she had loved it. Could they adopt the abandoned garden space and see what they could accomplish?
They got to work. Kelly planted seedlings at home and brought some sprouts to transplant. Nick purchased garden soil out of his own pocket. They collected seeds.
The garden began to come to life.
“I love the idea of growing fresh food for people to enjoy,” Kelly says.
The project has been a strong motivational tool for this therapy patient. But more than that, gardening is its own form of physical therapy. The lifting, reaching, and propelling of her wheelchair all contribute to Kelly’s PT goals for endurance and function.
Now other young patients are joining in, lending a hand, getting excited about the little garden.
“It’s a work in progress,” Hamilton says. “We plan to keep it evolving all year round so that other patients can go out and participate in growing food, no matter their limitations.”
With a seedling of an idea, and a gardener’s heart – good things can surely grow.