Nearly 40,000 people in the United States were killed by guns in 2017, including 188 people who died from gun violence in the state of Connecticut. Last year, nearly 3,500 kids under the age of 18 were shot nationwide.
This week, a New Haven coalition — including the parents of gun violence victims, the City of New Haven, and the Yale-based Urban Resources Initiative — will break ground on a new botanical garden dedicated to these victims. The New Haven Botanical Garden of Healing Dedicated to Victims of Gun Violence will honor those lost to gun violence in New Haven and raise awareness of the enormity of the crisis with the aim of stemming gun violence.
It will also offer a place of healing for those that victims left behind.
“When we felt hopeless and thought there was nothing we could do for our children, God gave us hope,” said Marlene Pratt, a New Haven mother whose son, Gary Miller, was killed in 1998. “This garden is one more thing we are able to do for them!”
The groundbreaking will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 18 at 105 Valley Street, New Haven. Families of victims are invited to participate to honor loved ones, and all of the public is invited to attend.
Last year, at least 3,493 children were shot in the U.S., according to data collected by Gun Violence Archive. Guns are the second leading cause of death for children and teens (after motor vehicle accidents), and the first leading cause of deaths for Black children and teens.
“The untimely loss of a loved one is a crushing blow to those left to mourn; the trauma is only compounded when that loss is the result of gunplay or some other violent behavior,” New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp said. “This garden will provide solace and a place to heal for those so traumatized — it’ll provide comfort and resolve to all who visit with an intention to address the scourge of gun violence in this nation.”
The New Haven Botanical Healing Garden will include a pathway with the dates and ages of victims of homicides from firearms in New Haven, illustrating the magnitude of the problem locally. Family members can choose to also include the names of the victims.
Major supporters of the Healing Garden — including Mayor Harp, State Senator Martin Looney and Jackie Fouse ’19 M.E.M. — will join the parents at the groundbreaking celebration. Harp committed $100,000 toward the project, while Looney, along with then-Governor Dannel Malloy, advocated for $300,000 in state bond funds. The rest of the funding was provided by Fouse, who learned about URI during her time as a student at F&ES.
“Through URI I found out about the efforts of Marlene and other mothers of children who have lost their lives to gun violence,” she said. “I was very moved by these terrific women who want to turn their loss into something good for their community so I decided to help.
“I was also impressed by the state and local government support for this effort and thought about how we can do more if we are willing to partner between government and private entities. We all must care about cities like New Haven around the U.S. and we must work harder to reduce or prevent senseless acts of gun violence or any form of violence that takes our young people."
The garden will help to restore hope and foster healing for families, friends and neighbors. This is the power of nature offering a contemplative and reflective space for community remembrance and healing, said Colleen Murphy-Dunning, director of the Urban Resources Initiative. At the new botanical garden, the landscape — trees, water, stone, and pathways — will guide visitor to commune, reflect and memorialize the loss. Planting the garden also creates a means of healing.
The New Haven-based architectural firm Svigals +Partners designed the garden’s conceptual plan. Now, together with Schmidt Design, they will produce the detailed construction drawings. URI in partnership with the parents and the city of New Haven, will lead the construction, and plant and maintain the garden.
The public is invited to help build the garden on Saturday mornings.