The creative process has always been a draw for Bonnie Garaventi, of Marblehead, Mass. From jewelry making and knitting to oil painting, Garaventi has learned a number of trades that allow for self-expression. In 2015, intrigued by the properties and powers of plants and herbs, she enrolled in an aromatherapy course. After completing the course and making a few batches of handmade soap, she decided to share her creations by donating soap, body butter and lip balm to families whose children are receiving care on Ellison 18 at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC).
Once a month, Garaventi sends about 30 bags filled with her creations. Inside every blue mesh shower bag, Garaventi includes a thoughtful note to let families know she is thinking of them. On every bag, there is a gift tag with a teal dragonfly sticker – a symbol that honors 14-year-old Megan Sheehy, of Marblehead, who received cancer treatment on Ellison 18. Megan passed away in August 2014, but throughout her treatment, the town was adorned with teal ribbons, posters and signs.
“I was having coffee with Megan’s mom, Jean, one day and we started talking about her daughter’s hospital stay. She said that when families are admitted to the hospital, there isn’t much time to pack a bag, so when you get to the hospital, you don’t have any of your usual products,” said Garaventi. “The products at the hospital smell and feel very sterile. It’s such a treat when someone hands you something that you’re meant to feel pampered with.”
Sacha Field, MS, CCLS, of John Hancock Child Life and Wellness Services at MGHfC, distributes the shower bags to families. In doing so, she feels it is a small way to honor Megan’s legacy. “Megan was such a selfless, giving and kind person,” said Field, a child life specialist on Ellison 18. “These products help our families feel human again. I was so touched, and even taken aback a little by the sheer generosity, when Bonnie said she wanted to donate these beautifully handcrafted products to our families. They are spa-quality and smell incredible.”
The most popular scent for Garaventi’s soap and body butter is lavender, followed by orange, rosemary and lemon verbena. The lip balm is usually mint for its soothing and cooling properties. Her products are all-natural, free of preservatives and organic, when possible. It takes about 4-6weeks to infuse oils with herbs, then another 6-8weeks to cure the soap. With all of that time, Garaventi can research and plan her scents for each season.
“I wish for families to have that moment of calm in the shower,” said Garaventi. “That’s my intention when creating these products.”