Gardens & Conservatory


Providing little hearts hope…and heart-warming joy!

A heartbreaking reality is that each year approximately 40,000 babies are born with some form of congenital cardiovascular defect. As a result, families must work through overwhelming emotions, vital medical decisions and sometimes multiple major surgeries—often while also caring for well-heart children. Mended Little Hearts of Central Virginia is a local organization that supports these caregivers with helpful resources, as well as healing camaraderie.

What better time to provide encouragement and hope than during the holidays? With that in mind, last December, Mended Little Hearts’ local co-coordinator Christy Davis inquired about a group visit to the GardenFest of Lights.

“I was married outside the Bloemendaal House in 1997, so the Garden always held a special place for my husband, Stephen, and me.” Since that time, the couple welcomed the arrival of two children, of which the younger, Sydney was born with tricuspid atresia. This congenital heart defect required two open heart surgeries before she was 15 months old. Through the year, the family occasionally sought solace at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Confident that the Mended Little Hearts members also would enjoy a Garden visit, Christy inquired about GardenFest group reservations. Imagine her amazement when complimentary tickets were provided, thanks to the generous corporate support of Dominion.

“It was the best Christmas present because it was so unexpected – such a wonderful gift,” Christy recalled. “Talking about it still makes me tear up.” The group of approximately 40 members started with story time and a fun-filled viewing of the holiday trains and lights. Then they all gathered at the Children’s Garden to warm up with hot chocolate and to toast s’mores at the fire pit.

“It really was a fabulous time!” Christy said. “It was kind of magical – they were entranced by it all. The parents saw the faces of their ‘heart-children’ and siblings alike light up with joy. They still talk about it!”

Springtime Outing Brings Joy to Virginia Home Residents

“They loved the freedom of being outdoors. They had a great time enjoying all that the Garden has to offer!”

Matt Shaver was speaking about The Virginia Home residents’ visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden earlier this year. As chair of the UVA Club’s philanthropy committee, Matt and other members invited The Virginia Home’s physically disabled adults for an outing during Virginia’s Historic Garden Week. Though most of the residents require a wheelchair for mobility and several could not verbally communicate, their faces and actions expressed joy at being outside amid springtime’s beauty.

“It was a wonderful evening, and the weather was perfect. We let them lead us to what interested them. For a couple hours, we meandered throughout the entire garden,”
Matt said.

This was the second year that the UVA Club coordinated an excursion for The Virginia Home as part of National Volunteer Week and the Cavaliers Care annual initiative. What enabled them to repeat the special invitation were the volunteers’ generosity of time as well as Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s offer of complimentary admission for all.

“There are so many wonderful things to do and places to visit within metro Richmond, and our residents enjoy these offerings as much as anyone else,” stated Sherry Williams, director of Volunteer Services for The Virginia Home. “However, most of them cannot venture out on their own nor can they afford the simple luxury of an admission ticket on an income of $40 per month. That is why the kindness and generosity of our caring community is so important, so that everyone might have the opportunity to partake in all our city has to offer.

“Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is a favorite destination for our folks; their staff and administration have been so kind to us!”