One of many lessons from the COVID-19 crisis has been the importance of taking quick action. For example: Within the first few weeks of quarantine, the Brushwood Center, based in Riverwoods, Illinois, delivered more than 500 masks to local hospitals, cleverly using fabric and elastic the center normally has on hand for art supplies for teachers and students. The center put together kits so volunteers could pick them up contact-free, make up to 20 masks per kit and drop them off back at the center, whose staff would then deliver them to hospitals.
This was just one proactive measure initiated by the organization with help from a $5,000 Quality of Life grant from the MDRT Foundation, sponsored by 20-year MDRT member Russell L. Game, ChFC, of Iron Mountain, Michigan.
As I’m walking through the woods, I come to being right there in that now moment.
In addition, Brushwood quickly developed a monthly newsletter for seniors, made available to nursing homes in the Chicagoland area and beyond. The mailing includes a combination of important updates about the coronavirus pandemic as well as lighter material, such as crosswords, pictures to color or paint, and photographs of birds.
“It was impressive that they could make all this available so quickly,” Game said.
Game’s connection to Brushwood may be familial — he learned of the center in 2016 when his daughter, Catherine, became its executive director — but his passion for it is personal in a different way. “Their mission is perfectly in sync with what I feel is important,” Game said of the organization, which is located 40 minutes from Chicago and promotes personal health, community well-being, creativity and the many benefits of being in nature.
The Art and Wellness in Nature (It’s A W.I.N.) program, also supported by the MDRT Foundation grant, provides nature- and art-focused programs for more than 6,000 low-income youths, cancer patients, neuro-diverse audiences and military veterans each year. Particular focus is given to communities that previously have had limited access to nature.
Game volunteers for the organization 10 times per year to help set up and support events (like an art show for veterans and appearance by environmental activist and legendary actor Robert Redford). He has seen numerous groups of kids and veterans come to the center and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of spending time outside among trees, plants and animals. It dovetails perfectly with Game’s own belief in the MDRT Whole Person concept and the anxiety-fighting benefits of balanced living.
“If you just take a break and take a 10-minute walk and have some connection to nature, your stress level drops dramatically,” said Game, who gets out as often as possible in the forests near his home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. “It’s so invigorating, and as I’m walking through the woods, any problems that I have just evaporate, and I come to that center of just being right there in that now moment.”