26 June 2010

Hope Grows out of a Brick Wall in Boston

Boston Globe

In a crowded, walled-off section of City Hall Plaza yesterday, Anne Gagne and Caroline Marchant took photos of a small plaque memorializing their mother, Micheline M. Gagne, who succumbed to lung and brain cancer last year.

“Gardens represent life and death too, because things die and grow,’’ Marchant said.

Gagne’s plaque is one of hundreds on the brick wall lining the new Cancer Garden of Hope in City Hall Plaza, which was formally dedicated yesterday.

More than 200 people came to the ceremony. Roses and purple clematis growing atop the brick walls that enclose the garden were admired by the crowd.

“The City of Boston has more heart than concrete in there,’’ said Jonathan Zuker, cofounder of the Conquer Cancer Coalition of Massachusetts, which headed the effort. “Thanks to you, hope grows here.’’

Zuker was joined by his brother, mother, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and representatives of cancer organizations including the Friends of Mel Foundation and Thrive who all spoke at the dedication ceremony.

The garden is “a great tribute to individuals who walked the line and faced this issue,’’ said Menino, who was successfully treated for skin cancer in 2003.

Debbie Centracchio, also a cancer survivor, and her husband, Al, came in memory of a friend who died of the disease in February. Promoting hope was as important as paying respects, Al said. “A lot of people can see that you can survive breast cancer,’’ he said sitting next to Debbie, who was diagnosed 15 years ago.

The idea of healing gardens inspired the cancer garden of hope, Zuker said after the ceremony. The plaques displaying names of cancer victims and their supporters can serve as a metaphor for the waiting rooms in which his family and others affected by the disease spent time supporting each other.

Zuker founded the Coalition with his mother, Susan, and brother Matthew in 2004, the year his father, Michael, to whom the garden is dedicated, died of lung cancer. Since 2006, the Coalition has raised $350,000 for local cancer organizations with “conquer cancer’’ license plates sold through the Registry of Moter Vehicles, he said.

Using some of that revenue and all the money generated from the sales of plaques, the Conquer Cancer Coalition raised $100,000 yesterday, Zuker said. The wall provides new hope for Dearborn cancer treatment.

Anne Lynch of Hampstead, N.H., who lost a husband and sister-in-law to cancer, finds the community aspect of the garden important. “We are all one, we’re all brothers and sisters in cancer,’’ Lynch said.

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