Healing Garden providing life, hope and renewal for Fresno residents affected by cancer

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A three-acre garden in Woodward Park is providing hope and healing for people in the community, and it's all inspired by people who have battled cancer.

"Cancer survivors have envisioned a place for our community to heal, to find hope and renewal," said Jenelle Higton. The program director for the Art of Life Cancer Foundation says the Art of Life Healing Garden is a special place for both people affected by cancer and those who aren't.

"With over 500,000 people coming through here every year, it's just tremendous to think of the impact we can make by creating a place like this that is really a legacy for our families and community," Higton said.

The garden is situated in the eastern portion of Woodward Park, just off Friant Road. The area features playscapes for kids, an amphitheater, a place to play music and art kiosks where people affected by cancer can reflect on their experiences.

Melissa Duerr-Aguilar had her own experience with the garden. She was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer in December 2017. Facing chemotherapy and surgery, she decided to take a walk in Woodward Park, 12 days after receiving her diagnosis.

"So I'm fiddling through my phone... and I look up and I'm in a healing garden." She says she hadn't heard of the garden, but says it was the first time she felt that she was not alone in her incoming fight with cancer. She's now in remission, over 15 months since her initial diagnosis.

The park, which broke ground in 2015, is currently in its third phase of development and is a result of a partnership between Art of Life, the City of Fresno, the medical and art communities, local philanthropists and volunteers. One final major piece of the garden, a statue, is yet to be complete and is awaiting a sponsor.

A "Paint it Forward" art exhibit will be held on March 14 at the Healing Garden from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Artwork created by cancer survivors will be unveiled and will remain on display in the garden.
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.