Since 2015, Roses for Autism has worked to create a public sensory garden at their Guilford-based farm for the entire community to enjoy. The nonprofit organization raised nearly $12,000 in monetary and supply donations. Volunteers devoted well over 1,000 hours to build the garden. The project brought the community together and has been a labor of love for everyone involved. Now with just a few weeks until the official ribbon cutting ceremony, vandals have destroyed their beautiful dream.
Michelle Ouimette, Managing Director of Roses for Autism said, “On June 1, 2017, the Roses for Autism crew purchased two large outdoor roses bushes, five gerbera daisy plants and grass seed. We set the items in the sensory garden overnight. The next morning, upon arrival to work, we discovered that all of the items were stolen. Our trellis was also broken. We immediately contacted the Guilford Police who seemed just as upset as we were. With our ribbon cutting community event approaching, we were not sure how we would be able to replace the plants before June 24th. Later that evening, the responding officer came back to Roses for Autism with an array of beautiful plants. He said that he and his fellow officers pooled their money to buy us these plants. We immediately planted the plants and were once again excited for our event. But on the morning of June 12, upon arrival to Roses for Autism, we discovered that the vandals had returned sometime on Sunday, when we are closed, and dug up our lilies, rhododendrons, yucca plants and other flowers. In addition, they stole our garden statues and lawn ornaments.”
Ouimette adds “we are devastated. The sensory garden was going to be one-of-a-kind on the Connecticut shoreline; a place where families could come and experience its therapeutic effects, a place where there was a sense of belonging without judgment, a place of quiet reflection.”
A sensory garden is specifically organized into different garden beds that are dedicated to inspiring the different senses. The garden can be both therapeutic and educational for a variety of individuals, particularly those with disabilities whose sensory responses are impacted.
In addition to appealing to the five senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing, the garden also addresses the vestibular and proprioception senses.
The vestibular nerve is the part of the auditory nerve in the inner ear that carries sensory information related to body equilibrium, balance. Disorders that interfere with that connection include vertigo and Meniere’s.
Proprioception is the neurological ability of the body to sense movement and position. For example you know your arm is at your side even if your eyes are closed. The sense of proprioception is disturbed by many neurological disorders. It can sometimes be improved through the use of sensory integration.
“The vandals don’t realize the ripple effects of their actions,” explained Ouimette. “The hardest part is trying to explain to our supporters why this has happened twice in the last ten days thus forcing us to cancel our ribbon cutting event until we are able to rebuild.”
In order to help purchase new plants, flowers and materials, a Go Fund Me page has been created to support the Roses for Autism sensory garden. Visit https://www.gofundme.com/roses-for-autism-sensory-garden