If he were alive today, Jimmy Mitchell would be 29 years old.
To honor their son's memory, Bethesda residents Nancy and Jim Mitchell recreated Saturday a meditation garden their son installed for his Eagle Scout project in 2001.
The garden at the National Center for Children and Families had fallen into disrepair, and was overgrown with weeds.
“It was just spectacular,” said Nancy Mitchell. “We were just overwhelmed with the support we had, and the results. Oh my god, we must have had 45 volunteers.”
Jimmy died of a seizure in October. With his birthday April 10, Mitchell said it was the perfect time to work on the garden, which also includes an eagle statue from her business partners, and a name plate on one of the benches.
The center in Bethesda has a homeless shelter, training for foster parents, and a program for teenage boys who were kicked out of or were removed from their homes. Overlooking the meditation garden is the Greentree Shelter, which serves 22 children and their parents, said Heidi Webb, director of development and institutional advancement at NCCF.
“The life around them, everything they knew, is gone,” Webb said. “It's absolutely hope to be able to look out and see something that is not chaotic, that is beautiful and peaceful.”
The garden is approximately 50 feet by 35 feet, with paths that wind through newly planted landscaping and connect to an existing nature trail, said Nick Poulos, facilities resource manager for the center.
“It's gorgeous,” he said. “I was here when [Jimmy] started this in ‘01. It just was pretty great at the time, and it's obviously very meaningful right now.”
Before he died, Jimmy was pursuing a degree in psychology. A lover of animals and the outdoors, Mitchell said the garden was a fitting tribute, which she and friends plan to maintain.
“I think we'll just call it NCCF meditation garden, because it truly belongs to them, and it belongs to the residents,” she said. “The plate says, ‘In loving memory of Jimmy Mitchell and the place that he holds in our hearts.'”