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Some miniatures in a garden
‘The whimsical’ Spiral Garden
Miniature Spiral Garden display pays tribute to and celebrates former Holland Bloorview therapeutic clowns

For four decades, since its inception, the Spiral Garden at Holland Bloorview has been a sanctuary of healing, creativity and wonder for children, families and staff. This magical garden, located in the hospital's backyard, continues to bring joy and serenity to all who visit. 

Holland Bloorview’s therapeutic clowns created a vibrant, miniature display of Spiral Garden on the inpatient floor to celebrate the lives and contributions of their past clown colleagues. The display blends elements of nature, creativity and heartfelt memories to honour Jamie Burnett aka Ricky and Helen Donnelly aka Dr. Flap.

"We wanted to celebrate our past clowns in a whimsical way, emphasizing joy, creativity, magic and wonderment," explains Suzette Araujo, aka Nurse Flutter, Holland Bloorview therapeutic clown. “The display is a gift to the children and the hospital, reflecting the clowns' appreciation and love for them.”


Two clowns
Helen and Jamie, former Holland Bloorview therapeutic clowns


Special elements of the display were thoughtfully chosen to reflect the unique personalities and passions of Burnett and Donnelly and their close connections to Spiral Garden. 

One notable feature is the bird by the spiral path, representing Dr. Flap. The bird, adorned with a tie, aviation hat, goggles and a red nose, symbolizes Dr. Flap as a pilot bird watching over the garden. “Helen loved bird watching and her clown, Dr. Flap, was in aviation, so we thought it would be fitting to represent Dr. Flap as a pilot bird watching over the garden,” says Araujo.

Another element is a colourful butterfly representing Burnett’s clown persona, Ricky, symbolizing his admiration for the resilience butterflies. “Jamie loved butterflies. He admired how fragile they were, yet resilient,” adds Manuel Rodriguez aka Nurse Polo, Holland Bloorview therapeutic clown. Also, thoughtfully placed on the monarch butterfly bench are miniature books that were created by Donnelly for Burnett, which adds a touch of personal history and affection.

Bringing the outside in


Leo Dragonieri aka Caretaker Piccolo and Suzette Araujo, aka Nurse Flutter, Holland Bloorview’s therapeutic clowns
Leo Dragonieri aka Caretaker Piccolo and Suzette Araujo, aka Nurse Flutter, Holland Bloorview’s therapeutic clowns 


Leo Dragonieri aka Caretaker Piccolo, Holland Bloorview therapeutic clown says, “The display incorporates natural materials from the actual Spiral Garden. The twigs from the garden’s trees were transformed into the miniature tree branches, while pebbles found on the grounds were arranged to create the mini-sized path. The fence, sign and butterfly bench were handcrafted and painted carefully.” Both Araujo and Dragonieri believe that nature is important and can affect our wellbeing. Being in nature reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. 

The therapeutic clowns and other Holland Bloorview colleagues played significant roles in bringing this display to life. By bringing elements of the outdoors indoors, the hope is that the display provides children with a creative space and a sense of wonder through the whimsical, yet also nonsensical, interpretation of Spiral Garden.

“Can a bird wear a white jacket and goggles? Why is there not a cloud in the sky? What is written in those little booklets? Who is behind that black door? We want this display to be a place where anyone can create their own story,” says Araujo.

Araujo and Dragonieri expressed wanting to make the display a point of inspiration and creativity. Looking ahead, the clowns are excited about new initiatives to thoughtfully integrate the miniature Spiral Garden display into activities for inpatient clients. Their ideas include but are not limited to colouring sheets, an ‘I spy’ game and an educational component around the living creatures and natural objects found in the miniature Spiral Garden display. 

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, we’re asking clients, families, staff and everyone in our community to share special memories of the Spiral Garden with us! Please post a photo or a brief recount of your experience here.

Learn more about the history of the Garden here.

For more information about our therapeutic clown program and its impact on the clients and families that we serve, click here

Watch the video below about the Spiral Garden display.