How It All Started

spacer s spacer

photoGinny and Bill Thurston's 40-year-old, eight-acre garden property in Harvard, Massachusetts was very well known in town and in gardening circles for its beauty and unusual configuration. Ginny (pictured at left) found deep pleasure in what she called "my little garden." When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, she spent even more time in the garden, as a place of respite from the rigors of treatment. Ginny explored and practiced several complementary therapies to aid in her healing, and after learning to meditate, she and Bill added a lovely, small meditation garden to the property. In addition, she joined her community hospital breast cancer support group, founded and facilitated by Elizabeth (Betsy) Tyson-Smith, a psychotherapist who had also experienced breast cancer.


Sadly, Ginny died in 1999. Knowing the garden had been such solace for Ginny, and wanting to help others with breast cancer, Bill (left) contacted Betsy to talk about ideas.

Betsy (Tyson-Smith, left) envisioned a center providing services with three components: complementary therapies, psychosocial support, and the healing environment of nature. They both felt strongly that the cost of services should not be an obstacle to care. In 2000, Bill donated land and a small cottage on the property, and together Bill and Betsy launched The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden.


The combination of deep commitment to the young organization and her professional expertise made it possible for Betsy to develop and formalize relationships with qualified therapists; to find funding sources for this venture; and — most important — to counsel the many clients in need of help. Betsy's long-term vision, coupled with continued client growth, was cause for initiating a capital campaign in 2006.

Bill Thurston, Sarah Hindle, and Betsy Tyson-Smith celebrate the opening of the new Healing Garden center.



Board Chair Sarah Hindle led the campaign, and raised $1 million to pay for renovations and create the current, beautiful, and functional Healing Garden center. The doors of the new center opened officially in October 2008. Expanding collaborations and some key grants helped expand the breadth of The Healing Garden's programs, especially in the Expressive Arts. This particular modality is one of the most creative, innovative, and popular therapies we provide, and is a core service offering.


In the past two years, The Healing Garden has seen a 35% increase in new clients, and since its inception, has served more than 1,000 clients from throughout Massachusetts, and parts of New England.

Today, more than 250 clients are actively engaged in our services. In addition, there are hundreds of people from the general community who have benefitted from our workshops and other Healing Garden programs.

While originally founded as a center for women experiencing breast cancer, in 2012, the Healing Garden expanded our scope of practice to include all people affected by cancer, regardless of gender, diagnosis or financial barriers.


“ I consider The Healing Garden an invaluable and rich resource for my cancer patients. The support and nurturing they receive at the Garden go far beyond what most cancer centers are able to provide.”

Jon S. DuBois, M.D.
Medical Director, Hematology Oncology

The Mass General Cancer Center at Emerson Hospital- Bethke, Concord, MA,

You are a person, not a disease, and you can live well with cancer, and beyond. We are here to help you.

Back to Top