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Herman Cruz of Newark now has a place where he can get fresh air and relax.
The Trail of Hope in neighboring Lyons allows Herman and his wife Sandy to resume activities they used to share before Herman suffered a stroke.
"We used to enjoy each other’s company, walking the Erie Canal Trail, before my husband had a stroke in 2009,” said Sandy. “It was just detoxing from the stresses of everyday life. Now this is like doing that all over again and that means a lot to us."
Herman says his time in a wheel chair is only temporary. He believes visiting the Trail of Hope adds to his recovery.
"It makes me feel good because you see different flowers, different plants and different colors. It's just a beautiful garden,” Herman said.
The Trail of Hope is the work of Lyons native Mark DeCracker. He had folks like Herman in mind when he came up with the idea for the trail.
It is dedicated to the late Jim Tuscher of Lyons, who spent his life as an advocate for those with disabilities, and Leigh Ann Henry, now confined to a wheel chair from injuries sustained in car crash.
"Our role is to enhance society as best we can and so many people don't have that chance. One out of five people have some kind of disability and this is their chance to have self worth and improve," said DeCracker.
The Trail of Hope wouldn't be possible without the work of volunteers. So far, nearly a thousand people have given their time and effort to help make all of this a reality.
Almost everything in this small park was built from scratch using sustainable materials. The mulch, trees, plants and flowers were all donated.
People like Carol Kildoyle have spent countless hours transforming a vacant field near the Lyons Community Center into a nature trail. Carol says working here brings back memories of her late husband, who passed away in January.
"We used to go to Maine an awful lot and I can hear the seagulls sometimes and it's almost like he's here with me at night when I'm watering. It's quiet and I can hear the seagulls there and it's like he's here with me,” Kildoyle said.
Groups of teens from other states have also volunteered their time. They're part of the Week of Hope program, a faith based organization where kids spend a week away from home working on service oriented projects.
"I just really like to take away the fact that I get to make new friends and I get to grow closer with them and I get to help people while doing it,” said Jordon Chisholm, from Warwick, New York.
Two more groups from the Week of Hope are scheduled to work on the trail through the first week of August, helping people like Herman Cruz reconnect with nature.
"I could stay here all day and enjoy it."