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Clara McLean House and The Healing Garden Celebrate 10 Years of Service

| Date Posted: 4/28/2022

PINEHURST, NC – Ten years of hospitality and hope will be celebrated on Thursday, May 5, during a rededication of The Foundation of FirstHealth’s Clara McLean House and The Healing Garden. The public is invited to drop by anytime from 4 to 6 p.m. with a short ceremony starting at 5 p.m. Clara’s House and The Healing Garden are located at 20 FirstVillage Drive in Pinehurst.


“Clara’s House and The Healing Garden are beautiful, visible reminders of our core purpose: to care for people,” said Kelly Pritchard, Clara McLean House manager. “We are grateful to have provided a decade of service to all the communities we serve.”


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The Clara McLean House provides a comfortable, caring and affordable place to stay for FirstHealth out-of-town patients, families and caregivers. Twelve overnight rooms and two day rooms provide quiet places for rest and renewal. In addition to lodging, Clara’s House is home to a range of patient support and advocacy services.


Since Clara’s doors opened on April 30, 2012, the home has served more than 12,000 guests comprising 20,000 lodging nights. While most guests hail from neighboring counties, the house has also welcomed travelers from 45 states as well as Canada, Holland, the Philippines, France, Argentina and Brazil.



The Healing Garden is located directly behind Clara’s House and also offers rest and renewal through nature.  More than 6,000 people have registered their visits at The Healing Garden since its gates opened.


Ed Madden Finds “Nirvana” During Cancer Treatment

One guest who found solace in both the house and garden is Ed Madden from Cheraw, South Carolina. When Ed was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2021, his radiation oncologist Jeff Acker, M.D. recommended a treatment protocol of radiation every weekday for five weeks. With Cheraw being 90 minutes away from Pinehurst and Ed’s wife living with Alzheimer’s disease, a daily commute for Ed wasn’t possible. Dr. Acker referred Ed to Kelly Pritchard at Clara’s House.


“Kelly called me, and we discussed my situation,” Ed said. “I was concerned about logistics, and she stopped me in my tracks, saying that I had no need to worry.” She explained that Clara’s House was designed for people just like Ed with a goal of removing all travel-related stress so he could focus on healing.  


I simply had no concerns at all,” said Ed, who traveled home on the weekends. “My brother-in-law stayed with my wife during the week, so that worry was gone. I was receiving the best care and staying in a beautiful place, so my time in Pinehurst was a complete nirvana situation.”


As an amateur photographer, Ed particularly enjoyed The Healing Garden right outside his window. “Spring was just starting to burst forth, and I had the flowers, smells, birds, rabbits,” he said. If he wasn’t busy documenting the garden’s beauty, he grabbed a cat nap in the garden’s serenity.


The Healing Garden Provides Rest and Renewal for All

Like Clara’s House, The Healing Garden was designed for people like Ed who need spaces to rest, reflect and rejuvenate.


“We are meant to be in nature,” said Lynda Acker, Ph.D., one of The Healing Garden designers (and wife of Ed’s radiation oncologist). “Nature has a wonderfully calming effect, and years ago it was a critical component of medicine.” Each of The Healing Garden’s 15 “rooms” offers experiences that change with the seasons. Traditional English garden elements mix with whimsical touches such as fairy gardens and topiaries for children. Benches, water features, art sculptures and wildlife feeders lend to moments of contemplation.  


Lynda said the inspiration for The Healing Garden came from co-designer Cassie Willis’s experience of caring for her mother while she was in the hospital. During the long hours inside the hospital, Cassie had nowhere to get away and connect with nature. She surmised that a garden near the hospital could provide a bit of respite and renewal for family members, patients and those who worked at the hospital.


FirstHealth staff benefit from the garden’s healing effects. For example, as a future component of FirstHealth’s nursing enrichment program, nurses will be able to escape the rigors of work for a bit to plant and tend flowers in a section called The Cutting Garden. When mature, the flowers are cut and displayed throughout Clara’s House. Nurses can also take home some of The Healing Garden’s seeds for their own garden.


While The Healing Garden benefits FirstHealth’s patients, families and staff, it is also a community resource. The garden has been the site of lectures, concerts, funerals and ceremonies to bless service dogs.


From dawn to dusk every weekday, anyone may visit the gardens and enjoy the beauty. Lynda and garden co-coordinator Claudia Watson said the only requests are to sign the guest book in the lobby of the Clara McLean House before entering and be respectful of the garden’s focus on quiet reflection.


Heart Fuels Hope

Ed emphasized that what makes Clara’s House and The Healing Garden special are the staff and volunteers. While his stay was during the height of COVID-19 and fewer people than usual could help inside, the garden volunteers still tended to their outdoor chores.


“The garden volunteers are no-nonsense,” Ed chuckled as he reflected on watching the master gardeners prepare for spring. “They came in with a vengeance, and I didn’t dare get in their way.”


Lynda and Claudia agreed with the garden volunteers’ impact. “From day one, The Healing Garden has been the work of volunteers,” Lynda said, adding that ever since the garden was an idea, the community rallied to fund, install and maintain it. Garden clubs and Boy and Girl Scout projects also contribute to the garden’s legacy.


Ed didn’t meet many house volunteers during his stay, but he developed lasting relationships with staff members.


“You can tell this is not just a job for them but it’s where they belong,” Ed said of the staff. He added, “No one mentioned this to me, but I can tell that Clara’s House is blessed and prayed over. God’s peace and presence are in every room. While at Clara’s House, my hope turned into certainty, and I knew everything would be OK.”


The Clara McLean House and The Healing Garden are funded by the community through The Foundation of FirstHealth. For more information on Clara’s House or The Healing Garden, call 910-715-4220.

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