When Louis Reynaud V found out that his mom, Kelly, was diagnosed with advanced stages of ovarian cancer he created a web page and sent it to friends, family and acquaintances with a humble request; help build her dream garden.
The idea came during a car ride home to Alpharetta from the hospital.
“My Mom started naming and describing the beauty of every flower that caught her eye. This was the first time, in nearly two weeks, that I had seen that warm, beautiful smile light up her face,” Reynaud wrote on the website.
Having just spent 10 days in the hospital undergoing treatment, Louis was amazed by his mother’s genuine apprciation for nature.
At one time Kelly Reynaud had a garden that she lovingly cared for and Louis now realized how much she had missed that experience. He believed that a garden would be the key to helping his mom fight her cancer.
In a letter that Louis sent out April 11, his mother’s birthday, he explains, “Not only will it bring out that wonderful smile again and keep her active, which has been linked as a predominant factor in cancer survival, but most importantly it will inspire that optimism. That hope, that will keep her glowing when things are dark and keep her uplifted on good days and bad days; good hair days and no hair days.”
A month later and the response has clearly been overwhelming with more than $500 donated from both strangers and friends. There were also well over 50 volunteers who showed up early Saturday morning to help plant, dig and haul.
Nathan Rigsby, a friend, had never met Louis’ mom but was more than happy to give a hand.
“When you have an opportunity to help create a healing garden, it is impossible to say no. Instead, you ask yourself ‘What more can I do and did I do enough?’ It was one of the most rewarding days of hard work I have ever experienced and I am extremely proud and grateful to have been a part of this alongside the volunteers, sponsors, and the Reynaud family. I'm proud of Louis and all the effort and planning on his part, makes me incredibly happy at the end of the day to know we created something that will have a positive and healing impact on his mother, Kelly,” explained Rigsby.
The generosity continued for Louis when he explained why he couldn’t work over the weekend for his new job at Eleanor’s, a new speakeasy that just opened up inside Muss & Turners in Smyrna. Not only did he get the day off but owners Ryan Turner and Chris Hall volunteered to cater the event at no cost and personally delivered the food to a hungry crowd.
Louis was baffled by his new bosses' kindness. “I literally started on Monday,” he says.
In addition, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition has donated awareness bands for volunteers and many business owners have also stepped up to help Louis’ cause.
Tim Newberry with Atlanta Tree Professionals provided wood chips for the path to the garden.
Jonathan Clarke of River Plantation Landscape Design supplied a truck full of topsoil, a truck of top mulch and a weeping Japanese maple. Mr. Clarke also advised on planning the layout and got Louis in contact with Stovall Nursery who provided flowers at a discount.
Carol Anderson-Wood, the Alpharetta Farmers Market manager, was able to get perennials and vegetables to also add to the garden.
With the overwhelming love and support from both loved ones and strangers, Reynaud has certainly feels blessed .
While Louis describes himself as a “half glass empty” type of person, he has remained optimistic about his mom’s health, this experience has definitely helped reinforce that optimism.
“Seeing all this, it kind of changes your perception of society,” says Reynaud, “I’m speechless, to be honest with you. I’m just completely speechless. I have no words for it.”
Louis’ dad, Louis IV wasn’t surprised when he found out about his son’s project but was very impressed at how successful the outcome has been.
“He’s the type of individual that wears his emotions on his shoulder. The fact that he put it all together and the way that he did it has been impressive.”
When complete, the garden will include an array of flowers and plants along with personalized stones featuring messages of encouragement and a bench where Kelly can enjoy the view.
The entire project was kept a secret from her so the day held many surprises.
“I was just amazed. He’s been something else from day one. All three of my children have been but he’s been there with me day and night,” his mother said.
All day was an outpouring of love and support for Kelly and she took it in stride.
“I kind of stay in the background and do for everybody else so it’s kind of hard for me to take in people doing something for me. There are some people here that I haven’t met before. There are some people that are friends of his from school that I haven’t seen in years,” Kelly said.
A day before Mother’s Day this is certainly one gift that Kelly will not soon forget.
“To put into words is kind of hard. I truly feel blessed, I do. I love him. Things come full circle sometimes.”
The feeling is mutual.
“Before my mother began her battle with ovarian cancer, I watched as she raised three often mischievous children, while selflessly baking and gardening her way into people's hearts,” says Reynaud, “It goes without saying that all of these things -- among all her other wonderful traits – make her the most beautiful person in the world to me, and that beauty will forever inspire me to be a better person.”