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Exploring Nature’s Healing Power

Annapolis-based nonprofit pays to find out

Kitty and Tom Stoner have helped create hundreds of public, urban greenspaces.

Can nature heal us?    
    Tom and Kitty Stoner have invested $20 million in answering that question.    
    Since 1996, their Annapolis-based TKF Foundation has supported the creation of more than 130 public urban greenspaces across the Baltimore-Annapolis-Washington, D.C. region. Three — pocket parks in Eastport — are right here in Bay Weekly’s back yard.
    Each greenspace includes a bench and a journal so people can sit, reflect and record their thoughts.
    Now the Stoners are going national.
    Their National Nature Sacred Awards Program will divide $4.5 million among six projects across the country to measure the healing effects of nature on people.
    “People say they feel better in nature,” says Tom Stoner. “But we live in an era where people don’t believe things unless they have been researched.” That is why these grants move past building greenspaces to researching their effects on the health of people and surrounding communities.
    “This is our human habitat,” Stoner says. “We worry about the habitats of other living things, but we spend precious little time on our own habitat.” Stoner hopes that this work will make people aware that we need to be connected to greenspace and ultimately inform urban planning and policy.
    Three of the six projects center on D.C. and Baltimore. Over the next three years, these projects will explore the healing effects of greenspace at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; study the health of people living around existing Open Spaces Sacred Places across D.C. and Baltimore; and research what it is about nature that heals to inform the design of future natural spaces.
    “If the study proves that nature reduces health costs, people will put more money into greenspaces,” says Stoner.
    Through the journals at the TKF Foundation’s greenspace benches, Stoner knows that more than 20,000 people have taken a moment to stop and reflect. If the Stoners can help infuse greenspace into our lives and city planning through this research, their foundation may touch millions more.
    Learn more about the TKF Foundation and the 2013 National Award recipients at http://naturesacred.org/. Check regularly for updates on construction of the greenspaces and progress on the research.