Medicine Wheel Garden completed at future Bravery Park site

December 6, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

The Dufferin County Cultural Resource Circle (DCCRC) has announced the completion of its Medicine Wheel Garden, a project more than four years in the making situated inside what will one day become Bravery Park.

Sitting down with the Citizen, Debbie Sipkema, who co-founded the DCCRC along with her husband Gil in 2014, explained the significance of this achievement with the community now boasting a dedicated space where people can learn about indigenous traditions. The Medicine Wheel, which cost in the region of $40,000 and took close to 4,000 volunteer hours to construct, will serve as a beacon for the aboriginal community in Orangeville.

“The Medicine Wheel Garden is a shared community space where people can learn about indigenous traditions, walk the circle, smudge a sacred plant or simply enjoy the gardens,” Ms. Sipkema told the Citizen. “It is to be an additional component to the healing process Bravery Park set out to provide. This will be an additional, different way of processing where people can reflect and contemplate whatever is on their mind.”

The garden was initially slated to be a part of the second phase of the Bravery Park development, but has been completed ahead of schedule, largely due to the “amazing generosity” of a handful of community volunteers, Ms. Sipkema says. It boasts four raised beds that represent each of the four directions on the medicine wheel.

Signs will be erected in each garden explaining, in both English and Ojibwe, the important elements of each of the directions.

“Each of the directions provides healing based on what you need, whether it be mental healing, physical healing, spiritual healing or emotional healing. The signs, which will be bilingual, will tell you what you can do, what different things are for. It’s going to be a very, very unique thing here in Dufferin County.”

The centrepiece of the garden is a huge grandfather rock, weighing close to 500kg. The rock was brought in from Huntsville,   and will be used for smudging by visitors and during traditional indigenous ceremonies.

“It feels almost surreal to be sitting here today knowing the project is practically finished,” Ms. Sipkema said. “We’re breathing a little better now. It’s been a long and hard summer, but all the work has been more than worth it. There’s still a couple of things we have to finish off – the garden beds have to be planted and we have to sweep the last of the gravel in, but that’s about it.”

In total, the Medicine Wheel Garden boasts more than 600 bricks. Ms. Sipkema reserved special thanks for the Town of Orangeville, Dufferin Child and Family Services, the Rotary Club of Orangeville, the Rotary Club of Orangeville Highlands, Whispering Pines, Orangeville Building Supply and D&D Pools, as well as a close group of volunteers, without whom she says the project could not have been completed. The garden itself is dedicated to a long-time friend of DCCRC, Cathy Elliott, who passed away in 2017.

As for the rest of Bravery Park, Shannon McGrady, who, alongside her mother Valerie McGrady, have fought to make the concept a reality in Orangeville for more than eight years, says things are “on track” for a grand opening next fall.

“The biggest thing to highlight would be how much we have raised – to date we’re at $106,000 of the $180,000 we need. It’s also important to note that the playground, a central point of phase one, has been installed. The (bronze monument) and (memorial) stone will be installed in the spring. People need to know this is still happening,” Ms. McGrady said.

She reserved thanks for the Amaranth Lions Club, whose $26,000 donation paid for the new playground at the Bravery Park site, located beside the Alder Recreation Centre.

Bravery Park is being designed for local residents to use as a “place of reflection” to honour the bravery, achievements and sacrifices of members of the Canadian military. For Shannon and Valerie, it will serve as a living testament to Cpl. Matthew McCully, an Orangeville native who was killed by a roadside bomb near a small village outside Kandahar City, Afghanistan on May 25, 2007. A brother to Shannon and son to Valerie, Cpl. McCully was a member of Canada’s elite Operation and Mentoring Liaison Team (OMLT) that trained Afghani soldiers.

With $74,000 still required to completely fund the remaining phases of the project, Shannon is hoping the community will continue with its “amazing, unwavering support” for Bravery Park. The committee is currently fundraising for three interpretative plaques to accompany the three main features of the park – the monument, the memorial stone and the playground. It is expected those plaques will cost in the region of $12,000.

“These plaques will provide the meaning behind the feature and educational information about our Canadian soldiers,” Ms. McGrady concluded.

To help support Bravery Park, a GoFundMe page originally set up to raise funds to cover installation costs for the monument and memorial stone remains open, with $19,488 raised to date. Visit For more information on Bravery Park, visit

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