The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Windsor-St. Clair Rotary Club Children's Greenhouse at the Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare Regional Children's Centre. (Photo by Alyssa Leonard)

Greenhouse Offers Healing To Kids At Regional Children’s Centre

This fall, children at the Regional Children’s Centre in Windsor will have the opportunity to discover their green thumbs.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare Regional Children’s Centre Thursday for the long-awaited Windsor-St. Clair Rotary Club Children’s Greenhouse. It will help teach children about responsibility, patience and nurturing.

“[The children] will be provided with an opportunity to learn how to grow plants and vegetables that they’ve likely never been afforded with. Hopefully, they’re going to be acquiring a skill, and a passion for gardening, that will last a lifetime,” said Renee Gilliam, operations manager of outpatient treatment services at the Regional Children’s Centre.

The greenhouse will provide an alternative therapeutic space for them to relax and to connect with each other and staff. Gilliam says spending time in the greenhouse will also help to decrease their levels of anxiety and stress.

“For many of these children, being in a classroom environment all day is very stressful,” said Gilliam. “So this gives an opportunity to have fun and to do something that is productive and enjoyable for them.”

In 2016, the RCC was presented with $150,000 from the Windsor-St. Clair Rotary Club for the construction of the new greenhouse. The President of the Windsor-St. Clair Rotary Club, Anna Jurak, says this project is close to her heart because she was an RCC board member for nine years and chair for four.

“When we were looking for something that would have an impact [on children], especially vulnerable children… further conversation and research in all the benefits of a therapeutic greenhouse, our club agreed that it would be quite beneficial and something that we could stand behind and work toward,” said Jurak.

Bill Marra, executive director of the Changing Lives Together Foundation, says the greenhouse will not be set up in the traditional sense. Part of it will be used for growing plants, but the rest will be for hosting receptions, guest speakers and special events for the children, and even as a teaching environment.

“It’s a very unique project. There aren’t many hospital campuses in Ontario that have a children’s program, let alone a greenhouse for the children’s program,” said Marra. “We think it’s the first of it’s kind in Ontario.”

Marra says the project is taking longer than planned, but he expects the greenhouse to be complete within the next month and to be fully operational by the end of the summer — just in time for the start of the September curriculum.