Nonprofit to build cancer healing garden at Woodward Park


A small corner of Woodward Park will soon begin a transformation from grass and a few trees into a garden with art, play areas and places for reflection to focus on healing.

Cancer survivors, their families and community partners will work together to create the Art of Life Healing Garden on the northern edge of the park, near the entrance at Friant Avenue and Fort Washington Road. A groundbreaking is planned in May.

The Art of Life Cancer Foundation, a Fresno nonprofit, has started a $1 million campaign to raise money for the three-acre garden, officials announced Tuesday.

Money has already been donated through sponsors like the Bucky and Margi Harris Family Foundation, California Oncology of the Central Valley, East Fresno Kiwanis, Granville Homes and Mike and Anna Tolladay.

To cure cancer, “it takes chemotherapy, it takes pills, but it also takes being able to take care of not only the body but the mind and the spirit,” said Dr. Christopher Perkins, the Fresno oncologist who founded the nonprofit.

“That’s what this Art of Life garden and Art of Life program exemplifies and accomplishes,” he said. “It accomplishes a goal of allowing patients to grow, allowing family members to grow through a difficult experience.”

The garden will have a trail that forms the shape of a ribbon. A local artist was commissioned to create a sculpture to stand inside the ribbon. An amphitheater will be built for celebrations, a labyrinth or maze without walls will be created to help calm visitors who walk the path and playscapes designed to look like boulders will nurture play and laughter.

Art work created by local artists will adorn kiosks scattered through the garden. Nooks with benches and shielded by bushes will create reflection areas for meditation or quiet conversations with family and friends.

The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The project will then continue to evolve over the years, officials said.

“This is not a memorial park, but a place of hope and celebration,” said Jenelle Higton, the foundation’s executive director.

“This will be a collaborate effort between cancer survivors, families affected by cancer and the local community to build, plant and creatively express what cancer has taught them about the art of living.”