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Local foundation and businesses team up to build sensory garden

Submitted Photo Borgi Beeler, Kalix, left, and Shelly Weppler, St. Joseph’s Community Health Foundation, enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the new Sensory Garden.

After three years of planning, fundraising, and construction, the Kalix Sensory Garden is complete and being used on a daily basis.

The outdoor space and sensory area was created to improve the quality of life for people who are aging and/or have a diagnosis of dementia along with a developmental disability. The area was designed to serve as a setting for both passive and active pursuits, engages all senses with a variety of colors/scents/sounds/textures/tastes, and includes interesting features that will engage minds and stimulate interaction. A patio with a gazebo, shade trees, and several seating areas make it a comfortable area for relaxing and calming. Multiple pathways and a variety of interest points including a decorative water fountain, raised pond, wind chimes, flowering plants, etc. encourage movement throughout the garden area.

“Unfortunately, people with cognitive disabilities experience Alzheimer’s and dementia at higher rates and at earlier ages than the general public. People with dementia gradually lose memory, abilities, and coping mechanisms. Current research shows that outdoor spaces designed specifically to support people with dementia can help to retain cognitive and physical abilities and lessen the confusion and agitation often associated with the condition. Additional benefits cited for all people with a disability include improved motor skills, enhanced creativity, increased social skills and improved self-confidence,” commented Borgi Beeler, President/CEO of Kalix.

Kalix is a private non-profit that has served adults with developmental disabilities in Minot since 1960. The Kalix sensory garden was funded with a variety of grants and donations, including from St. Joseph’s Community Health Foundation, an anonymous donor through the Minot Area Community Foundation, First Western Insurance, the Donald and Frances Tank Endowment, and the ND State Council on Developmental Disabilities COVID Relief Fund. Donors and other interested parties were invited to visit and experience the Kalix Sensory Garden at an open house on August 6.

“Our team has been researching the perfect fixtures, furniture, and plants since last summer and it’s been exciting to see all the ideas come to fruition in a few short months. This phase of the project has been uplifting, especially during the current pandemic. It’s great to see everyone enjoying and benefitting from the space,” noted Krista Opstedal, Coordinator of Assistive Technology and point person on the project.

“I spend a lot of time in the garden each day, especially under the gazebo. I like to look at the interesting stuff and like seeing the deer that come down from the hill. I love that I’m able to garden and appreciate the produce that I grow,” said Charles Andrade, project team member.

“We can’t wait to see what you grow after the garden is complete!” the ND State Council of Developmental Disabilities posted on Facebook.

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