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Photo of Garden of Hope

July 31, 2008

Thomas Healing Garden Dedicated at SIU School of Medicine

The Gordon R. Thomas and Evelyn Brandt Thomas Garden of Hope has been dedicated at the SimmonsCooper Cancer Institute (SCCI) at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.  The outdoor dedication program included remarks by Evelyn Thomas of Springfield, whose contribution supported construction of the garden.

“We know garden settings in health care facilities have improved medical outcomes, mitigated pain and reduced stress,” explained Dr. K. Thomas Robbins, SCCI director.  “So we are grateful to see this beautiful healing garden developed as part of the Institute’s site as another example of the caring environment we’re developing for our patients.”

The garden, located on the northeast side of SCCI’s new building, is visible from inside, including from the chemotherapy suites on the first floor.  Planned with expertise from the fields of therapeutic environments and landscaping, it was designed as a place of comfort, welcoming patients and their loved ones to reflect and focus on hope for the future.

The garden honors the memory of Mrs. Thomas’ spouse, Gordon R. Thomas, and is reminiscent of the family farm, Rocky Branch near Mt. Sterling.  Gordon Thomas was co-owner of Brandt Consolidated and involved in agricultural enterprises as well as farming.  He was born July 31, 1925 in Rushville and passed away in March 2003 after battling lung cancer.  A graduate of the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois, Thomas worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation for 30 years before retiring in 1982.

“My husband was a caring and thoughtful man who would go the extra mile to help anyone.  He was devoted to giving back to the community and I know he would be proud of this beautiful garden,” said Evelyn Thomas, co-owner of Brandt Consolidated and a native of rural Pleasant Plains.  “I am grateful to the SIU physicians who have cared for us over the years and I pray this garden will comfort their future patients who come here for care.”

The garden contains various prairie plants, ferns and red bud trees as well as a running stream and small waterfall.  The boulders in the garden are glacial granite and the other stones are limestone from several sites in the Midwest, including Rocky Branch in Brown County in Illinois.  A sculpture will be added later through collaboration with the Art in Architecture program of the Capital Development Board.  A memorial plaque installed on a large stone in the garden remembers Gordon Thomas.

The design of the garden was prepared by Massie & Massie Associates and Hanson Professional Services of Springfield, who worked with a team from the medical school.  Contractors for the project were Evans Construction, Anderson Electric and Sprinklawn, all of Springfield, Illinois Forest Products of Beardstown, The Pond Doctor of Rushville and Otto Baum Masonry of Morton.

SIU’s new state-of-the-art $21.5 million cancer institute is nearly completed and was dedicated on July 10.  It will serve as a center of cancer care and research for downstate Illinois as well as a new front door for the medical school campus in Springfield.  The SCCI mission is to serve the people of central and southern Illinois by addressing their present and future cancer care needs through medical education, biomedical research and patient service.  Its Web site is www.siumed.edu/cancer and its main phone number is 217-545-6818.

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thern Illinois University School of Medicine Office of Public Affairs News Releases P.O. Box 19621, Springfield IL 62794-9621, 217-545-2155