A Garden at Grand River’s Withdrawal Management Centre Will Be a Healing Space for Patients and Their Families
On the last weekend in May, friends, families and members of the community came together to be a part of a very special project: planting a garden at Grand River Hospital’s Withdrawal Management Centre in memory of Andy Bruce.
Andy’s generous spirit had a profound impact on the people around him, and he had a strong connection to the Withdrawal Management Centre at Grand River Hospital. It was a place where he often sought support throughout the 15+ years he struggled with alcoholism, and he had come to value the people he met there as mentors and personal friends. He was also known for his kind heart and his affinity for helping others. He would look out for newcomers, taking them to AA meetings, inviting them out socially and keeping in good touch to see how they were doing. During times when he was working and doing well, Andy would visit the Withdrawal Management Centre every pay day to donate clothes and toiletries for patients who needed them.
“We met people at the funeral and even people that came to help do the garden that said, ‘I met Andy here, and he took me to my first meeting, and it’s why I’m sober now,’ or, ‘it’s why I’m on the road to recovery now,’” Andy’s mom, Anne, recounted. “We must’ve met 15 or 20 people that all had that same story.”
When Andy passed away from his addiction in August of 2021, his family was initially at a loss for how to honour his memory. But when the idea of a garden at the Withdrawal Management Centre was suggested to them by one of the Centre’s staff, Andy’s family immediately knew that it would be perfect: Andy loved to be outdoors, and while living with addictions, or loving someone who does, can be lonely and isolating, a garden would be a place of healing that would bring people together.
To raise the money they needed to make the garden a reality, his family started a GoFundMe, and support quickly poured in from all who loved Andy. Many also had similar experiences with their own loved ones, and within merely half a day, Andy’s family had already surpassed their original fundraising goal. From there, support only continued to grow, and they raised thousands more dollars until the garden was funded entirely by the generosity of friends, family and community members who shared their passion.
“That’s the part that really got me on this,” Anne marvelled, “because we felt originally if we got 25% of what we raised for a garden it would be huge. We just had no idea how many people wanted to partner with us for this.”
Anne knew that people who supported the memorial garden were much more generous than they ever would be for other causes, primarily because of their personal connections to mental health and addictions and the ways a healing outdoor space, in particular, would make a difference for individuals struggling with addictions and their families.
“If we just said ‘give to the Withdrawal Management Centre,’ we would have been lucky to raise a fraction of what we did,” she added.
Losing someone you love to mental illness or addiction is never easy, but Andy’s family is making sure his legacy of helping others continues and in a way they know would have been so meaningful to him.
“If Andy was alive and someone else was doing this … he would have loved this,” said Anne. “He had a real need inside to help people … so I know he’s shining down, looking on the garden, going, ‘Okay, you guys rocked this. This is exactly what I would have done.’”
The garden at the Withdrawal Management Centre will be an outdoor sanctuary for patients, families, caregivers and staff alike. It will provide a calm, quiet setting to hold group sessions and for families to spend time with their loved ones when they come to visit, and staff are also encouraged to enjoy the garden during breaks to clear their heads. Mostly, Andy’s family simply hopes that the garden will bring people together and promote healing, not just for patients but for their families and loved ones too.
“We really do hope it will be a healing garden and give people a space to go out and enjoy,” said Anne. “I think in our hearts we know it’s going to do good.”