Beaver Dam memory garden planned

October 30, 2018 GMT

Community Awareness and Recovery Environment for Dodge County wants to provide a place of beauty for those who have lost a loved one to addiction or suicide.

CARE Vice President Brenda Tratar said the nonprofit organization is in the planning stages of establishing a memory garden in Beaver Dam.

“CARE’s mission is to empower families choosing a life of recovery, but unfortunately many addicts don’t recover,” said Tratar.

The idea for a memory garden came about during National Night Out held at Swan City Park in August. A Beaver Dam woman, whose 26-year-old son died in May, suggested the garden while visiting CARE’s booth at the event.

Patti Likwarz said her son Jeremy lost his battle against the disease of addiction and mental health to an accidental heroin overdose. He had been sober since 2013 and was in treatment. Since his passing, she has become an advocate and started the Facebook page “Speak Up for Jeremy.” The page is a place for families to tell their stories, educate the public and to stop the stigma and shame associated with mental health and addiction

“People who are addicts have families and dreams, too. Yet they are labeled with unforgiving names by people who truly do not understand,” Likwarz said.

“Addiction does not discriminate,” she continued. “Drug addiction doesn’t care if the addict came from a broken or loving home. Drug addiction does not care if you believe in God. Drug addiction does not care about the color of your skin. Drug addiction does not care if you are a business owner, a mother or father, a famous person or that kid just down the street.

“It does, however, show how a one-time lapse in judgment, that one-time choice that is made, will change you and your family’s life forever,” Likwarz said. “As a mother I learned how to hate the drug and how it changed my son. But he was my son therefore you love the addict.”

Likwarz said having a tranquil garden space for people to honor and remember their loved ones and bring awareness to the issues with mental health, the heroin epidemic and suicide is needed.

“Many (families) have to cremate their loved ones and have no specific place to go and sit to talk or remember. It is a vital part for the journey through grief,” she said.

CARE approached Beaver Dam Mayor Becky Glewen about finding a location within the city for the garden.

“We are going to discuss options more after CARE’s organizational meeting,” said Glewen. “It could be a great way to remember individuals and bring attention to the tragic opioid issue that is rampant among us. Too many lives have been lost.”

Tami Joe DeLisle from UnMasked Expressive Therapies in Beaver Dam started an art therapy grief group about a year ago at CARE. She said the group’s focus is shifting and they will help contribute items for the garden.

“I found that the words ‘grief therapy’ scares some people,” said DeLisle. “No one wants to admit they need therapy, but grief needs to be addressed. Many people are told that six months after a death they should ‘get over it,’ but sometimes it takes that long just to open oneself to addressing it.”

DeLisle has changed the name of the support group to “Memory Keepers.” It will meet at CARE the first Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. starting in December.

“We want to help keep alive the memories of the loved ones we’ve lost. Each time we meet we will create a keepsake to remember their story and hold them close to our hearts,” she said.

The group may make pavers for the memory garden, create a mosaic or mural and possibly help with planting. DeLisle said she is filled with ideas and will work to meet the group’s wants and needs.

Tratar said community support is greatly desired to get the memory garden project off the ground.

“According to a report released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust it is predicted that Wisconsin deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide will increase 39 percent over the next decade,” she said. “What people tend to forget is that these deaths are our friends, family or neighbors. They are more than just a statistic. They are loved and greatly missed by someone.

“CARE knows many grieve in silence because of the stigma that surrounds drug and mental health issues. We want a nice, quiet and serene place for people to feel they are not alone.”