Healing Waters, Inc.
The following is the story of how Healing Waters, Inc. came to be, and what our future goals are. Written from a first-person point of view by the Founder, Peter Donahue, GreenPete, LLC.
The Back-Story: In October of 2018, I was hired to design an outdoor living space for a residence in an HOA community. The client asked for a truly unique design, which would set her property apart from the "cookie-cutter-style" hardscape projects that were being constructed in her community. My design company was into its second season of business, and I wanted to create something special that would attract attention and earn me new business. I decided that I needed to incorporate a new natural element into my design portfolio, Water. A quick Google search of "water features" put me on a path that has opened up dozens of new and rewarding opportunities for my business, and helped kickstart this philanthropic journey.
The Beginning: After selecting a water feature that fit perfectly into my client's design, I decided that it would be a smart idea to receive some hands-on training, prior to installing one of these features for the first time. In February of 2019, I attended the "Aquascape Academy", hosted by Aquascape, Inc. at their headquarters, Aqualand, in St. Charles, Illinois. I felt the 2 -day training opportunity was a wise investment in my business, and that it would give me the confidence needed to properly install a water feature for my client. I had no idea how life-changing my visit to Aqualand would be.
Aqualand: I arrived in Chicago on a snowy evening and careful drove my rental car from O'Hare Airport to a hotel that was located just 1-mile from Aquascape's Headquarters. The next morning I arrived at the Academy and drove down Aqualand Way for the first time. Atop Aquascape's headquarters I observed the world's largest sloping "green roof", planted with 264,000sqft of prairie meadow grasses and perennials, truly an impressive sight to behold! What waited inside was even more impressive! As I walked into the front lobby area, which is actually a storefront, I was greeted by the sights and sounds of a tropical paradise. Ponds, waterfalls, streams, and tropical plants are everywhere, and the floor plan flows through these features as smoothly as the water does. Customers can interact with the features, and even feed the turtles and fish! Besides the amazing visual impression I was greeted with, I was left with an even bigger emotional one, which set the stage for the formation of Healing Waters.
Power of Water: As I walked through Aqualand observing the eco-system artwork created by their master craftsmen, an unrecognizable sense of peace and tranquility came over me. In fact, I felt so at-ease next to these features, that I almost didn't want to attend the Academy classes; All I wanted to do was sit next to water features all day and relax! Having grown up in the Hudson Valley I was no stranger to beauty or flowing water, but I had never experienced it in a setting quite like this; I also never realized the Peace that emanated from these features when placed in a residential setting. I was hooked, and I wanted to share this peaceful feeling with everyone!
The Start: Upon arriving back home in NJ from Aqualand, I was "inspired" to say the least. It was still Winter outside, but I needed to re-create the peace that I felt at Aqualand as soon as possible; I also felt a strong and compelling urge to share this feeling with others. I wrote a message to the CEO of Aquascape, Greg Wittstock, pitching him my idea for a Charity that focused solely on building water features for Veterans and First Responders who live with Post Traumatic Stress. In April of 2019, Greg announced via social media that he would be giving away a Free Pond to a lucky follower. He received hundreds of entries, but the Chicago-local nomination of a double-amputee disabled US Marine Corps Veteran, is what caught his attention. Greg reached out to all of his Certified Aquascape Contractors and asked for Veterans to volunteer for the build. Having just pitched the idea of creating a Charity that focuses solely on this Mission, I couldn't refuse my services! In May of 2019, I joined a large group of CACs who met at Aqualand to gear-up for this special build. In only 1-day, we created a beautiful Aquascape Eco-System pond for this deserving-Veteran in his backyard. He was now able to experience the Peace that I experienced at Aqualand. It was the first "Mission-Accomplished" feeling that I had during my career in the private sector, and it felt amazing. I was now more determined and motivated than ever to bring this 501(c)(3) venture to life!
The Startup: By July of 2019, I had already installed five water features since the start of the season, and I felt confidant that I could build features for the charity on my own if need be. It was right around this time that I was searching for an accounting firm to assist me with the paperwork aspect of starting the charity. Having learned how to design and build water features, I was now working on the not so glamorous side of the idea, PAPERWORK, and had reached a point where I needed to hire professional help. I began cold calling accountants in the area in order to try and get an idea of the cost of creating a 501(c)(3). Shorty after beginning this process, I was contracted by a local landscaper to design the front of a residence located in a prestigious community in Monmouth County, NJ. Since 3D Design work is my primary business, I jumped at the opportunity to pick up design work in this location. During the initial design consultation, I learned that the client owned an accounting firm, and that his firm specialized in the formation and accounting of Public Charities. Was this our Creator lining things up for me? I believe it was.. I pitched the idea to the client that I would provide him with a 3D rendering of a proposed landscape design for his residence, if he were willing to barter his services with me and help me form a 501(c)(3). This man was so honest, that not only did he agree to the Trade, but he informed me that my design work was more expensive than his accounting work; So he also didn't mind paying for the design as well as starting the charity for me. I advised him that I appreciated his kindness, but that his accounting work meant so much to me, that I would perform the design work as a barter for his work only; No money was to be exchanged.
The Name & Purpose: Healing Waters had been stuck in my mind for quite some time, and by August of 2019 I had already expanded the scope of my idea to include building features for more than just Veterans and First Responders. I wanted the opportunity to bring Peace and Tranquility to those who lived with debilitating illnesses as well, and I wanted the freedom to build these features anywhere. Just as I didn't want to limit those who I could help with this charity, I also didn't want to limit the locations where I could build Zen gardens or sanctuary spaces. I drafted up the following "Purpose" of my charity, and I prayed to God that it would get approved:
"To Design and Build Zen Gardens and Sanctuary Spaces in Residential, Public, and Commercial locations for the purpose of providing a tranquil space, in which those who live with debilitating illnesses can peacefully gather to focus their Thoughts on Healing, Health, and Recovery."
A debilitating illness is any illness, disease, or condition which makes someone very weak or infirm; An illness that hinders, delays, or weakens the physical or mental abilities of a person. So as you can see, this Charity has been established so that I can provide for the greatest good for all.
Goals: The goal of Healing Waters, Inc. is to create Peace. We do so by creating an environment that is conducive to internal peace, so that your body's natural ability to heal itself is given a chance to work miracles. It's scientifically proven, and common knowledge in the medical community, that when your Mind is at peace your body heals. By creating tranquil spaces in which a person living with a debilitating illness can find Peace, we provide that person with a holistic benefit that they may add to their arsenal of conventional treatments and approaches to healing.