Imagine a beautiful, verdant garden with curling grape vines, ruby strawberries and a soft breeze passing through the trees. You feel at peace. But how would you feel about this lovely moment in nature if you had experienced living outside alone?
Welcome to the Above and Beyond Healing Garden, an oasis in the expanse of urbanity within the West Side of Chicago. The Healing Garden presents an opportunity for growth, forgiveness and nurturing one’s inner potential. It is one of the many projects Above and Beyond pursues to ignite one’s spark in the dark, and redefine recovery for all. This pursuit aligns with Above and Beyond’s mission to build an individualized treatment experience that is available to anyone in need regardless of their economic status. With 73% of Above and Beyond’s patient population experiencing housing insecurity, this variety of compassionate, evidence-informed treatment is usually inaccessible.
“It’s very apparent to us that our patients may have a tense and often damaging relationship with the outdoors. Considering their circumstances and experiences, it’s reasonable to see the natural world as a hostile environment,” says Above and Beyond’s GROW Project Coordinator, Charles Dysktal. “We try to address this lingering stigma and introduce clients to a new way to connect with the world around them.”
Thus, Above and Beyond teamed up with Northwestern University as a part of the GROW project (Gardening for Recovery and Optimal Wellbeing) to offer recovery treatment in nature. Patients worked with counselors to use the garden as a therapeutic space to process their recovery journey, utilizing innovative and evidence-informed therapeutic techniques such as PhotoVoice, while getting in touch with nature.
“I thought the garden was a breath of fresh air. It felt like freedom to sit there and be at peace, and start the process of self love. Just sitting with yourself and embracing yourself…you were able to understand ‘This is where I’m at, I accept where I’m at, and I’m ready to grow,’ like the flowers here in the garden” says Kay, a recent graduate of Above and Beyond.
Beyond the Healing Garden, Above and Beyond is steadfastly working to foster partnerships that will ignite our patient’s sparks. In 2022, Above and Beyond linked with City Colleges of Chicago, where patients can access a variety of comprehensive adult education opportunities.
Now, as patients work with Above and Beyond’s individualized recovery programming, they can also attend City College’s GED classes, ESL classes and programs which transition into college credit or job credential programs.
“The GED program is an essential linkage service that assists our patients in getting enrolled at Malcolm X College and helps them to get the education they need to find and maintain gainful employment. Their journey is only beginning,” says Bonnie Kimpling, CADC and staff contact for the Education Program.
“I was introduced to Above and Beyond through an inpatient program. The groups really changed my way of thinking and put a desire in me to live a life of sobriety. This place has put a desire in me to live a life that was hard to live before and has given me a new group of friends to share this life with,” says Demonds, an alumnus of Above and Beyond and a participant in Above and Beyond’s educational partnerships. “If you have the opportunity, go for it. You are never too old to learn. Always believe in yourself!”
Above and Beyond’s mission continues with other critical projects, such as the Above and Beyond Free Food Pantry, which serves over 300 individuals daily, and fed 20,000 household members of West Garfield Park in 2021.
You can support Above and Beyond’s mission by attending the Redefining Recovery Gala on Friday, November 4, 2022, either in-person at the dazzling Drake Hotel or online through a one-of-a-kind virtual gala experience. The gala will feature an in-person conversation with former NBA star Lamar Odom as he shares his triumphant journey through the darkest moments of his life. Supporters attend our event so that they can engage in a rare gathering of individuals who have ignited a spark in the dark within themselves.
Come light a spark in your own life, and help others to appreciate your gifts and unique presence in the world! We’re saving a place for you . . . your place! Tickets, sponsorships, donations and more can be found on the Above and Beyond website.
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