Today’s piece is a guest post from Crayton Webb, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility at Mary Kay, a partner of the Arbor Day Foundation.
When the Arbor Day Foundation first approached us with the idea, I was skeptical – at best. Thanks but no thanks, I thought. A Nature Explore Classroom!? Mary Kay isn’t interested in building another playground.
“No, no, no,” they persisted. This isn’t a playground – it’s an outdoor learning space. A healing garden. There’s a curriculum and a plan. And while several have been built around the country, they continued, there has never been one built at a domestic violence shelter. The pitch continued – there is new and evolving science that proves kids who have been abused or subjected to abuse find healing in nature, not unlike therapy with music or in interacting with animals.
That was back in 2008. The next year, Mary Kay decided not to build a Nature Explore Classroom at a domestic violence shelter in the United States. Instead, we built five! There was one constructed at a shelter in each of the five cities where Mary Kay Inc. has a facility – just outside of Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, in central New Jersey and, of course, Dallas. The next year we built three more. And three more the following year. And so on, and so on, until just recently, in time for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, when we dedicated Mary Kay’s 20th Nature Explore Classroom at a shelter in Tampa Bay, Florida called The Spring.Looking back it’s hard to believe there was ever a question in our mind about this project. The Mary Kay Foundation℠ has a long history, going back to 2000, of providing emergency support and relief to women’s centers through its Shelter Grant Program. But this project with the Arbor Day Foundation and another group called the Dimensions Foundation, helped Mary Kay start work on the side of prevention – healing, stopping the cycle of abuse spreading from one generation to the next. Now, Mary Kay Inc. is committed to being the corporate leader in the effort to prevent and end domestic abuse and violence against women. And it started with a little bit of green space.
Please watch our video to learn more and see the real impact of Mary Kay’s Nature Explore Classroom project. Our sincere hope is that these outdoor learning gardens will provide thousands of women and their children with a fun, safe, quiet place to learn, play and most importantly, to heal.