By: Mike Sullivan, Primary Therapist & Lori Armbruster, Communications Director

PQ staff members were honored and humbled by the overwhelming turnout of alumni, students and families who gathered at the San Francisco Children’s Garden in Golden Gate Park for an inspiring day of service to the community! PQ alumni spent the day working side by side with PQ staff to build sustainable garden beds, revamp neglected pathways, and artfully paint various stumps and signs with inspirational quotes and educational facts to support this beautiful landmark garden. Though the theme of the day was service, the undertone was that of connection. The garden is a powerful classroom and catalyst to support change, which has been proven during each student’s stay at Pacific Quest. Families attending the event sought to give to their local community and were also excited to reconnect with the PQ Ohana that helped to create meaningful and life-changing experiences during their Pacific Quest journeys.

Upon arriving at the park, all projects were carefully outlined and explained. Moms, dads, alumni, students, and siblings quickly volunteered for various tasks and out came the gardening gloves, shovels, paintbrushes, and hand picks. The families dove into the tasks, utilizing communication skills, teamwork, and plenty of good humor to complete each task. The families worked throughout the morning, enjoying the camaraderie, sunshine, and people around them. In a pre-lunch debrief circle facilitated by PQ’s Horticultural Therapy Director, Travis Slagle, many commented on how good it was to reconnect with the garden, nature, and community. Young siblings shared the simple happiness they felt being with their families and doing something together. The park interns commented repeatedly that our volunteer alumni were enthusiastic, polite, exceptionally hard working, and clearly dedicated to the tasks at hand.

The Children’s Garden serves as a venue for educating young children in San Francisco about the wonders of the natural world, where their food comes from, and health and nutrition. The garden is maintained by wonderfully enthusiastic interns, who are dedicated to the well-being of youth in their community. The PQ alumni families continuously expressed gratitude that they were able to contribute to such an important and worthy cause. As the day concluded, the Children’s Garden Community Coordinator and her small team of interns expressed sincere heartfelt appreciation, sharing that in one day our “army of angel volunteers” were able to accomplish several projects that would’ve taken their small crew, weeks and — in some cases– months to complete.

As the day came to a close, bittersweet goodbyes ensued. The community gardening project was a huge success! PQ alumni families rekindled a deeper connection with each other and within themselves by working in the garden and giving back to their local community. It is our hope that families will continue to seek out opportunities to practice and put to use many of the concepts learned at Pacific Quest, and that Ohana Days serves to spark that desire.

As I reflect back on this weekend’s event, I am inspired by the ripple effect of the work that we do. Seeing the smiling faces and families working together is a powerful and tangible reminder of that work. It is our goal to foster growth and connection that ripples outward into communities, where families and children will find a deeper sense of connection to themselves and the world.