Bloch Cancer Survivors Garden, a neighborhood oasis

Nestled between the Maggie Daley and Peanut Parks is a small oasis known as the Bloch Cancer Survivors Garden. It is a secluded refuge where people can sit quietly to reflect upon loved ones who have suffered from cancer, ponder their own mortality or simply enjoy the majestic beauty of nature.

The garden was built in 1996 on approximately 2.25 acres of land. Two 40-foot Corinthian columns, which were salvaged from Chicago’s 1905 Federal Building, grace the entrance. Prior to being put in the garden, these columns were used to reinforce a breakwater under the Lake Michigan shoreline during the 1980s.

IMG_3371dThe gardens are funded by the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation, which was founded by Richard and Annette Bloch. The couple dedicated their lives to helping others suffering with the disease after Richard waged and won a war with lung cancer.

Features that promote healing are incorporated into the landscaping, including 14 bronze plaques carrying messages of inspiration, and a “positive mental attitude” walkway lined with greenery and flowers.

A sculpture of eight life-size bronze figures arranged in a maze, represents the trials of cancer treatment. There is a pavilion, which signifies the road to recovery, with plaques that define cancer and ways to help overcome it.

The Bloch Cancer Survivor’s Garden has overcome its own challenges over the years, including crab apple trees that were attacked by rabbits, the theft of the inspirational plaques, and even a consideration of moving the garden to gain access to Lake Michigan.

The garden’s annual replanting budget is an estimated $60,000, which has traditionally been managed through the Parkways Foundation, the park district’s nonprofit arm. Although revenue generated by renting the garden for weddings and private events may offset costs of maintaining it, its fiscal situation remains controversial and relies considerably on private donations.

Anyone wishing to make a donation should contact the Chicago Park District (773) 685-7235.

— Ophelia Dodds, Community Contributor

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