What the Tour Benefits and Why It Was Started
©2014 Eugenia Uhl
In 2003, Eileen Gambel and Kathleen Waring realized the need to raise funds for brain and spinal cord injury recovery after attending local brain injury support group meetings. They learned how many of the members were left with devastating deficits: physical, mental, financial and emotional. These same members were forced to create their own personalized brain and spinal cord injury recovery plans on top of their daily duties.
The two decided to put on a garden tour as fundraiser adopting the concept of the healing properties of a garden from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book, The Secret Garden. It made sense to establish a fundraising tour of lovely and secret gardens as a means of helping others to heal from brain and spinal cord injury. Along with Marianne Mumford, a friend and landscape architect, Eileen’s husband, Gene, and friend Glenda Barkate, they decided to schedule a garden tour in Uptown New Orleans since it was an area with many beautiful gardens which were not often seen by the public.
This original group recruited friends and volunteers to help raise money and put together a local resource guide on brain and spinal cord injury recovery. The money would also help fund The Acquired Brain Injury Survivor Support Group’s social events for birthday and holiday celebrations.
The original garden tours took place in March of 2004 and 2005. Over 1500 participants from New Orleans and beyond came to see the outstanding 18 garden layout in 2005. Word of mouth has established the tour as one of the best outdoor garden events in New Orleans highlighting the talent of local garden designers who showcase a variety of gardens styles varying from the traditional and formal gardens (maintained by many professionals) to the avant garde incorporating tromp l’oeuil techniques in smaller venues.
Due to Hurricane Katrina, the tour was postponed for four years and made its debut again in March 2009 garnering local and regional visitors and posting $40,000 in funds to put towards brain and spinal cord injury recovery needs. The Secret Gardens Tour® has continued annually since then with much success, becoming a must-see spring event for tourists and locals alike. Funds raised in 2015 will go towards revising, printing and distributing The Greater New Orleans Resource Guide to Brain Injury Recovery as well as to support survivors of brain and spinal cord injury and their recovery needs.