USO Military Appreciation Day

Military Family Appreciation Day

USO families and veterans were welcomed on June 25 to a special day at the Chicago Botanic Garden. A gift from the Annie and Gregory K. Jones family provided the families and veterans with a day of fun experiences: tram tours, admission to the Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America and Butterflies & Blooms exhibits, lunch, exploration at the Kleinman Family Cove, nature play at the Regenstein Learning Campus, and creating a mini terrarium in the Buehler Enabling Garden. 

The Garden’s horticultural therapy department drew on their experiences working with veterans and their families as they planned a plant-based activity that would celebrate the strengths of these folks. Succulent plants were a natural choice. Add colored aquarium gravel and a portable container, and you’ve got a beautiful tribute to the pride of being a member of a military family. So, here is a fun way to consider this event:

How is a plant like a member of a military family?

Succulent plants
Succulent plant: By deftly storing water, succulent plants live just fine under extremely hot and dry conditions.
Military family holding small terrariums made at the Garden.
Military spouse: By using resources wisely, a military spouse stretches money, time, and love to make sure the whole family is taken care of, wherever they may be.
Succulent plant
Succulent plant: Develops a tough exterior to endure harsh conditions.
Military family eating lunch at the Garden's USO Military Appreciation Day.
Military parent: Develops coping skills and the ability to play both mom and dad roles to endure long deployments.
Succulent plants
Succulent plants: So many colors, leaf shapes, growth habits, and unique beauty—yet all have key traits in common.
Military family eating lunch at the Garden's USO Military Appreciation Day.
Military kid: Powerfully diverse in appearance, personality, and beauty—yet all have key traits in common.
Succulent plant
Succulent plants: Belong to many plant families, but all are classified as succulents because of the features they have in common.
Military family holding small terrariums made at the Garden.
Military families: Each family is unique, and many include extended family members for support, yet each family takes pride in—and draws strength from—the traditions, support, and high purpose that being part of the military offers.

One striking thing about the day was the eager participation of everyone who planned and worked on that day. Garden volunteers raced to sign up for shifts. Many cited their own family members in service and their strong desire to honor those who keep us safe and free. The USO of Illinois had an equally eager corps of volunteers who came to the Garden early on a Saturday morning to get the “goodie bags” filled and to register everyone. 

Kay Knight, horticultural therapy coordinator, was the Garden’s point person for planning the day. Kay worked with departments across the Garden and with USO of Illinois to make sure everything ran smoothly. According to the many, many compliments and thanks expressed, Kay succeeded! 

The USO families had fun doing activities together and enjoyed the red-carpet treatment. 


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and

Published by

Barbara Kreski

Barb Kreski supervises the horticultural therapy services department at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She holds a master's degree in health sciences with a concentration in neuroscience and an undergraduate degree in occupational therapy.

2 thoughts on “Military Family Appreciation Day”

  1. Sounds like you had a fantastic day for the families. Congrats on s successful event!

  2. As a member of the American Legion, I am so happy to see the great day the Garden had for service people and their families. And what a naturally good idea to have the whole family, including children, do a planting project together. .

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