The Wilheit family believes the beauty of a garden can heal.
Philip and Mary Hart Wilheit have donated $700,000 to Northeast Georgia Medical Center to build a garden at the North Patient Tower.
The garden will be the largest of five donor gardens at the hospital with 20,000 square feet across the tower’s main concourse.
The gift is in honor of the couple’s parents, Tom and Jane Eve Wilheit and Jack and Mildred Keys.
“We wanted to find something that would be a great place to honor our parents and the medical center just seemed like the right place to do it,” Philip Wilheit said. “The garden was the right venue because both sets of parents were very involved in landscapes and yards and loved beautiful things, and we just felt like this was a good fit.”
The garden will include a water feature, seating, lighting and a rainwater collection system.
“People will be able to enjoy it from both the indoors and the outdoors,” said Nancy Colston, executive director of the Medical Center Foundation. “All of these upper-level (windows) are waiting rooms or patient rooms. They’ll be able to enjoy it without coming out and visiting.”
Philip Wilheit said he thinks people will be comforted by the sound of running water in the garden.
“Something Mary Hart and I really like about it is the water features,” Wilheit said. “I think it’s very soothing in a hospital setting.”
The design also includes eight seating areas.
“We want it to be really a place of resting and retreat,” Colston said.
The Wilheit family has a tradition of involvement with Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
Philip Wilheit served from 1986 to 2007 on the Northeast Georgia Health System board and as chairman beginning in 1993. He continues to work on the board as chairman emeritus. Mary Hart Wilheit is a lifetime member of the Medical Center Auxiliary and past chairwoman of the auxiliary’s annual fundraiser, Marketplace.
“This really is a family affair, both my children are involved with the hospital,” Philip Wilheit said. “My daughter was president of the Medical Center Auxiliary, and my son is active on the foundation for the golf tournament they do every year.”
Mary Hart Wilheit, a copper welder, said she plans to design a sculpture for the garden.
Colston said the garden will be unique to the Wilheit family but will incorporate the design elements used in other gardens around the facility.
“We have some plants we’d like to put in because our mothers loved them,” Mary Hart Wilheit said. “We’re looking forward to watching it evolve.”
Colston said the hospital hopes to have the garden completed by late this year.