Being surrounded by nature can often be healing— mentally, spiritually, and physically. When Community Healthcare System planned their new Stroke and Rehabilitation Center in Crown Point, they knew that a healing garden would be important to help facilitate holistic healing within their patients. Upon the passing of Valori Kolarczyk, long-time inpatient program director for Acute Rehabilitation at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, coworkers and her husband Larry helped to establish the garden as a way to honor Valori’s memory and work. Valori was well-known throughout the healthcare system having worked on the inpatient rehabilitation side of acute care at sister Community Healthcare System hospitals Community Hospital in Munster and St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago as well.
“Valori dedicated her life to people who are in inpatient rehabilitation,” said Elise Sims, Media/Public Relations Specialist. “She wanted her patients to achieve the greatest mobility and restore the best quality of life that they could.”
The garden was carefully planned to mimic Valori’s backyard garden on a grander scale. Meticulous plans were made to incorporate many of Valori’s favorite things. From the shape of the garden to the color of the arbors, there are tributes to her everywhere.
“Valori’s favorite color was purple. She loved butterfly bushes and butterflies, and all of these are featured in the garden,” said Craig Bolda, Administrator, Community Stroke & Rehabilitation Center. “Many of the plants used were ones that Valori enjoyed the most.”
Community Healthcare System’s healthcare professionals always believed that having the healing garden would be an important aspect of caring for the patients at the Stroke & Rehabilitation Center. There, patients can spend time in nature and not be confined to their rooms, which is great for their physical and mental well-being.
“It’s part of the holistic treatment plan that we have for our patients,” Sims said. “It’s not just all about medical healing— there’s spiritual, body, and mental healing, and all of it connects.”
With the additional funds provided by Valori’s husband, the healing garden was able to expand and offer even more to its visitors. Simple activities such as walking along the circular path or sitting and getting up again from the benches that line the path are all ways Community Healthcare System therapists and staff can encourage patient mobility and get them ready to return to daily life as soon as possible. The garden helps to prepare them for the challenges they may face at home.
“We’re planning to incorporate some planting in the garden and from a treatment perspective, that will help with fine-motor skills,” Bolda said. “It’s great for gross-motor skills— walking with a walker around different terrains, smooth vs rough, and even the wind can help by testing balance. There’s so much that the outdoors has to offer.”
The garden was also built as a way to foster community at the center. Staff can enjoy a break walking or reflecting in the garden. Visiting families can use the healing garden to bring a beloved pet to visit patients or sit out on the dining room patio to eat and reflect on nature.
The Valori Kolarczyk Healing Garden is a beautiful spot and there are many plans for the future. The garden was planned with great detail to include a grassy area, which could be used for treatment programs like tai-chi, or yoga. There are even plenty of electrical outlets placed throughout the garden to allow for outdoor gatherings or events and to light the garden up with multi-colored lights this holiday season.
Valori’s husband, Larry finds that the healing garden is the best way her life could be memorialized and celebrated.
“The healing garden was the perfect tribute to an incredible person,” said Larry. “Valori loved nature and spent her life helping others, whether it was patients on the acute rehab unit, family or friends, or an animal in need. She was always there for everyone. This garden will allow her spirit to continue to brighten people’s lives when they need it the most. The goal of this endeavor was to create a one of a kind place in honor of a one of a kind person, and I think we achieved that. Valori is someone that will never be forgotten.”
The peace and beauty of the Valori Kolarczyk Healing Garden is a testament not only to Kolarczyk’s life but also to the many details incorporated by Community Healthcare System to promote physical, mental, and spiritual healing. The garden is a hidden gem within the Crown Point community and offers an excellent spot to commune with nature.
For more information about the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, visit their website here: https://www.comhs.org/
For more information on the Community Stroke & Rehabilitation Center, visit: https://www.comhs.org/about-us/community-stroke-and-rehabilitation-center