NH Gives Supports Commemorative Courtyard Renovation

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Honoring our Health Care Heroes: Commemorative Courtyard Renovations are Underway

Volunteer, Julie Desmarais smiles for the camera. 27 years of volunteer pins adorn her bright blue jacket.
Julie Desmarais

If you’ve recently visited the rehabilitation garden off the main parking lot, you’ll notice it looks a bit neglected. Julie Desmarais, a St. Joseph Hospital volunteer for 27 years, remembers when it was first planted. 

“Twenty-seven years ago, my mom, Lucille Blanchette, was a patient at St. Joseph Hospital,” remembers Julie. “When she passed away, I signed up to volunteer to help work through my grief. Today I’m still a volunteer.” In honor of her mother, who had been a prolific gardener, Julie donated three truckloads of flowers from her mother’s garden to spruce up the area.
After serving as a quiet oasis for many over the years, the garden space is ready for a complete refresh. Plans are in place to transform the space into a new commemorative courtyard as a tribute to the St. Joseph Hospital staff and their tireless efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dan O'Donnell with his arm around his wife Cathy, in front of ocean scene.
Cathy and Dan O’Donnell

Daniel O’Donnell, husband of employee Cathy O’Donnell, NP, saw how hard his wife and her colleagues were working during the pandemic. He wanted to do something to recognize them and let them know how much they are appreciated. Familiar with the healing power of nature, Dan thought a commemorative courtyard would be the perfect way to acknowledge their service.

“We are very excited about creating what will be a long-lasting and beautiful reflection garden, dedicated to the health care heroes who have worked tirelessly through the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to the memory of the souls who passed,” say Dan and Cathy. “This area will provide solace to those who need a quiet moment and serve as a beautiful venue for hospital and community outreach events.”

We are grateful for the O’Donnell’s leadership gift of $10,000 and their dedication to making this commemorative courtyard a reality. St. Joseph Hospital senior management matched their gift to the courtyard in honor of their staff.

The courtyard will include plantings and perennial flowers that were donated to the original garden many years ago — including ones from Julie’s mother’s garden — in an effort to keep this special piece of St. Joseph’s history alive. With shaded and sunny areas, seating and gathering space, the new outdoor area will lend itself to small meetings, enjoying a lunch with a friend or even an open-air yoga session. We’re confident it will be a place of joy, peace and reflection for our staff, patients and community members.

Rendering of new garden with walkways, shade areas, benches, and florals
Courtyard Rendering

“I will turn 91 years old on June 22,” shares Julie. “I am looking forward to celebrating it in our new garden!”

Join Julie and the O’Donnell’s with a gift to the Commemorative Courtyard on NH Gives June 7-8 or anytime on our website.

This story was featured in the 2021 Foundation Annual Report; read more.

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