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Ithaca Children’s Garden Welcomes YOU

Your gift creates healing, growth, and joyful experiences for every visitor to the Garden. We have less than a week and $15,000 left to meet the $40,000 match graciously offered by Triad Foundation. Help us reach our goal by FRIDAY, December 17!

Erin Marteal, ICG’s Executive Director


My favorite thing about Ithaca Children’s Garden is the way children and families discover they belong. To themselves, to each other, and to this beautiful living world.

A police officer, in uniform, walks through the gates.
I wonder, is something wrong? 
I approach to ask, and see his gaze searching, then landing on a small child. The child crouches on the docks, intently studying the water’s surface.
I ask the officer, “Is everything okay?” 
He responds, “Yes, I have visitation with my boy, we meet here.“
I step back, and witness a moment, profound in its simple power. The child enraptured by the tadpoles, a police dad in uniform, asking what are these things moving around in the pond. The child, about age 6, tells his dad about the tadpoles, that someday they will grow up to be frogs. Not many words pass between them. They sit quietly, together, observing these strange and marvelous creatures.

Several weeks later, the dad and son return after heavy rains. The frog pond has overflowed, and tadpoles are flopping around in the parking lot.

The dad sees me and calls out, “Please, please help, the tadpoles need us, they’re dying, they’re dying.” Panic occupies his strained voice, he is overcome with emotion.

I go fetch a broom to sweep them back in. I know the next rains will push the tadpoles out again. But right now, these tiny tailed creatures will see another day.

Ritza Francois, ICG’s Director of Development

Strawberry Healing

I don’t know why but it feels like I’ve been here before.

I’ve been here before 
where my ancestors looked over their shoulders and said keep a eye an out
they might be watching
Pick it quick & go hide
Hello strawberry

I feel like I’ve been here before.

Green surroundings for the birth of your soul.
You belong here, You belong here
Don’t ask why you can’t be!

Revolutionize while healing the spirit of the grieving earth,
Open your eyes to color and sunshine that you have felt within!
You’ve been here before
But now older
younger self footprint remains
Strawberry field present
No longer interested in what’s beyond your shoulder
Presently u picking enough for the next generation
As you were supposed to be.

Jason McClevish, ICG’s Facilities Manager & Playful Nature Explorers Co-Lead

While the world imposes judgements, fears, and exclusions, ICG holds a place of openness and safety to nearly all beings and perspectives (sorry any mosquitos, poison ivy, or haters that don’t quite get the warm welcome as the others).  

This person and family has found solace at the Garden for over a decade. I have yet to come across anyone intentionally impeding another’s joyful engaged experience. Clearly ICG honors individuals’ path to discovery while offering gentle guidance towards openness and understanding.

As a portal to authentic and meaningful experiences, ICG has a special place for each and all where familiar meets novel- and one can count on positivity.  We are all “us” while here- and it is an honor to hold a space of warmth and positivity to share with you. 

Each day holds a new treasure at ICG, and whether you are just passing through or here every day- you are welcome on this place of safety and high quality living experience.

Monique Caraballo, ICG’s Communications and Marketing Coordinator

No one has ever asked me: “Do you feel safe?”. 

As a child, grown ups believed the places they took me, or the people we spent time with, were inherently safe, and I had no choice but to trust them. 

As a teenager, I would only get into trouble with an adult’s permission; and my rebellious streak ended before it ever began.

As an adult, realizing I wasn’t given the space to decide – or verbalize – if I felt safe or comfortable anywhere {very often I did not feel safe or comfortable} and now tasked with my own healing, I ask myself. 

I wasn’t well versed in the Garden before becoming part of the team as ICG’s Communications and Marketing Coordinator, but I am well versed in systemic racism. As a nature photographer, hiker, and someone who relies on the natural world for grounding and reconnecting with myself, I’m reminded daily of how unwelcome and unsafe my Blackness is in greenspace; I know that partaking in any number of these activities could lead to a potentially dangerous situation simply by being there.

So it was with some apprehension that I took my first trip to ICG to acclimate myself, sometime after accepting the role.

The first thing to greet me at the gate was a Black Lives Matter sign, answering the question “Do you feel safe?” before I’d had a chance to ask it. There are plenty of places with signs and nothing else. But ICG was listening, reckoning, and reconciling. Everyone on the team – I was learning – holds inclusion and equity close, inside and out of work. The sign at the entrance didn’t make me feel skeptical because I could pair it with the work, it made me feel welcomed. Safe.  

Though there is so much more to do, the gravity of that moment fuels my work still, over a year later. The Garden challenges perceptions, and assumptions, of public greenspace. It gives everyone permission to show up as themselves, while loudly stating our values, we invite all to safely and bravely experience the bliss of nature exploration.  

For me, ICG – our work behind the scenes, as well as the physical Garden itself – has helped to heal parts of myself that couldn’t nourish a whole relationship with nature until now. Knowing that the work we do today in inclusion, equity, representation, and accessibility will impact generations of people who share my experience, who endured far worse, who still feel unsafe and unwelcome – until hopefully no one else does.

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