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Holiday Greetings & Year-End Reflections from Ithaca Children’s Garden

From everyone at Ithaca Children’s Garden, we extend our warmest holiday wishes to you, our ICG Friend, and your family. In 2023, we’ve grown in many ways – from welcoming new faces to reuniting with old ones and expanding our capacity to serve more children through our outdoor programs. As we reflect on a year filled with growth and change, we’re excited to share with you insights and reflections from our dedicated staff. Read on to hear our staff’s reflections on this year’s experiences.

Celebrating Our 2023 Milestones

2023 was a year brimming with growth and achievements at Ithaca Children’s Garden. We were thrilled to welcome Jae Darling as our new Communications Coordinator, enhancing our outreach and community engagement. The Yurt celebrated its one-year anniversary on November 2, 2023, continuing to be a cornerstone of our Garden, especially on days when the weather calls for indoor breaks!

Our team expanded with the addition of Annika Ross as a Youth Garden Educator, significantly increasing our capacity to serve and connect more children with nature in our Summer Camp and After School programs. We joyfully welcomed back Erin Marteal as the Development Director and introduced Taylor Gettis as the Development Associate, strengthening our foundation for future growth.

This year also saw the return of ReJunevate, our bi-annual fundraising event that transforms the Garden into an adults-only evening of fun. One playful suggestion from a participant was, “You should have prepared mud pools for the adults!” hinting at potential fun additions for 2025’s event.

Another highlight was our Scarecrow Jubilee, which had the honor of welcoming Senator Lea Webb. Her presence and distribution of Halloween Safety Tips added a special touch to the festivities, as she joined families and staff in the joyous tradition of building scarecrows.

These milestones, along with the support and enthusiasm of our community, have made 2023 a year to remember at ICG. We look forward to building on these successes and continuing to grow together.

The Power of Collaboration

The spirit of collaboration illuminated Ithaca Children’s Garden this year, weaving a vibrant tapestry of community and innovation. A shining example was our After School program. It didn’t just flourish at ICG; it also inspired Lime Hollow to launch their own initiative. This mutual exchange of ideas and practices culminated in a retreat at Lime Hollow, where their Director praised the exemplary model set by ICG—a resounding testament to the far-reaching impact of our collaborative efforts!

Our collaborative spirit stretched beyond organizational boundaries, drawing in the time and talents of students from Ithaca College and Cornell University. Ithaca College volunteers, alongside Jason, ICG’s Facilities Manager, gave Gaia, our iconic Garden figure, a much-needed ‘spa day,’ rejuvenating her spirit. Volunteers from both colleges played a crucial role during our Scarecrow Jubilee event, which saw an extraordinary turnout. They helped assemble scarecrow frames, facilitated face-making and clothing stations, and infused the festive autumnal spirit with pumpkin carving activities. Their enthusiasm and dedication not only brought our events to life but also strengthened the bonds within our community.

Special thanks to Mike Smith from Manifesto Designs, whose exceptional photography vividly captured the joy and energy of Mud Day and Scarecrow Jubilee. His images tell the story of our community’s vibrant life. We also express our gratitude to Todd Edmonds from Iron Design, a staunch advocate for the Garden. He helped create the materials that promoted ICG’s events throughout the community and region. His creativity and support have been invaluable.

These collaborative efforts underscore the profound sense of community and shared purpose that defines ICG as a special place in Ithaca and beyond. We extend our heartfelt thanks to every individual and organization that joined hands with us this year. Your involvement has helped to enrich the experiences we offer and strengthen our bond with the community.

Behind-the-Scenes: Staff Reflections

In 2023, our staff at Ithaca Children’s Garden experienced moments of growth, joy, and collaboration that left lasting impressions. One staff member cherished the presence of Entomologists from Cornell’s Graduate School at our Summer Camp, enhancing the learning experience for the children. The launch of The Hive by Erin and the inaugural Daffodil Dash were milestones that brought new energy to our community. “Watching the children grow, yet remain wonderfully the same, was particularly moving,” shared one of our educators. Another found alignment, noting, “Joining a team that resonates with my values has been fulfilling.”

Children dressed in red shared strawberries and took ‘birthday pictures’ at PNE in June–amid the strawberry season– to celebrate a PNE’s fourth birthday.

Memorable events like the last day of Playful Nature Explorers in June, where we celebrated a child’s fourth birthday amid strawberry season. Children dressed in red shared strawberries and took ‘birthday pictures,’ emphasizing the importance of community from a young age. From the After School program’s creative cardboard boat building to expanding our education team and increasing scholarship offerings, 2023 was a year of significant development. The installation of a heating system in The Yurt and growing our online presence were just a few of the many achievements that underscored our commitment to nurturing young minds and fostering a sense of belonging at the Garden.

Looking Forward to 2024

As we eagerly anticipate the new year, the Ithaca Children’s Garden team is setting its sights on exciting aspirations for 2024. Many of our staff members are committed to further developing their leadership skills and confidence as educators, aiming to bring even more creativity and knowledge to their roles. We’re dedicated to growing our donor relations, ensuring every contributor feels a profound connection and alignment with ICG’s mission.

A group of kids use soil they gathered to paint pictures at Ithaca Children's Garden's After School program, with Bailey Colvin from Cornell Small Farms, facilitating.
Bailey Colvin joined the Ithaca Children’s Garden After School program in the fall to teach kids about soil painting, in part to pilot a lesson called ‘Sensory Soil Analysis: Painting with Soils’, as part of her work as Project Associate for Farm Ops, a Cornell Small Farms Project that supports military veterans in exploring agriculture and horticulture venues or expanding on their existing operations.

Exciting developments are on the horizon, including the relaunch of ICG’s merchandise online and the introduction of fresh, new merchandise! We’re planning to sizzle up more cooking activities, stirring curiosity and culinary skills in young minds. Additionally, we look forward to welcoming more outside educators and diverse programs to engage with our After School kids, enriching their experiences with a variety of activities and perspectives.

Mark your calendars! Our 2024 schedule is brimming with events and activities that you won’t want to miss. If you haven’t already, check out our upcoming ICG activities and get ready for a year of growth, learning, and fun.

If you’re feeling inspired, we invite you to deepen your involvement in ICG’s journey by exploring various ways to get involved. We understand that everyone has different capacities to contribute, and that’s why we welcome you to explore the numerous opportunities on our website. Whether it’s joining The Hive for as little as $6 a month or volunteering this spring, there’s a place for everyone to help grow or to grow alongside the Garden.


From all of us at Ithaca Children’s Garden, warm holiday and New Year wishes to you. Also, a heartfelt thank you to our community – from our volunteers and Hive supporters to our program families. Your involvement is the sunlight that nurtures our growth, and we cherish your trust and presence in our garden’s journey.

Thank you message from staff at Ithaca Children's Garden for a wonderful and magical 2023!