lilacs at integrative cancer support center

How it all Started

Cancer Center in memory of Ginny

Ginny and Bill Thurston’s twelve-acre garden property in Harvard, Massachusetts, was well known to townspeople and area gardeners for its beauty, spectacular gardens, and unusual configuration. Ginny found deep pleasure in what she called “my little garden.” When diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, she spent more time in her garden, as it provided a respite from the rigors of treatment. In addition, Ginny explored and used several complementary therapies to further assist her treatment–acupuncture and oncology massage.


Founders of the healing garden cancer support center

Sadly, Ginny died in 1999. Knowing the garden had been such solace for Ginny and wanting to help others with breast cancer, Bill contacted Betsy Tyson-Smith MA, LMHC, CCMHC, a psychotherapist and Ginny’s community hospital support group facilitator, to discuss ways to honor Ginny and offer support for cancer patients.

Betsy envisioned a center providing three service components: complementary therapies, psycho-social support, and the healing environment of nature. Bill and Betsy felt strongly that the cost of services should not be an obstacle to care at the new center. In 2000, Bill donated a portion of his garden and a small cottage on the property to provide a home base for the center. From there, Bill and Betsy launched The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden.


Foundation of The Healing Garden

As word of the Garden’s work spread and the number of clients increased,  the board initiated a capital campaign in 2006. The Board raised $1 million to pay for renovations to create the current Healing Garden Cancer Support Center. The doors of this beautiful and functional new center opened in October 2008.  

Margaret staff member at cancer support center

Again, growth resulted in further change; in 2012, under the leadership of Executive Director, Margaret Koch, the Healing Garden’s mission expanded to include providing cancer care to men and women, regardless of cancer diagnosis, or financial limitations. Collaborations with other non-profits increased, bringing new programs and services to the Healing Garden. As a result, the Healing Garden has become an ever-growing, evolving resource in the cancer community.


Today, the Healing Garden has served over 1,800 clients affected by cancer as well as providing care for their caregivers and families. On an annual basis, the Healing Garden caseload includes over 375 individuals actively engaged in therapeutic services. Each year, over 150 new clients seek our services and the vital support we can provide. These clients hail from 195 towns and cities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which speaks to the high demand for integrative cancer care in our area. Knowing that our programs and services are also effective tools for health and wellness, we offer many of our classes to the community at large.   

leaf logo for an integrative cancer care center

Support The Healing Garden

We rely entirely on voluntary donations from people like you who are invested in helping those affected by cancer.

Your thoughtful philanthropic support of The Healing Garden enables us to maintain, broaden, and enhance our program offerings and services.