On a hot day in June, the wind chimes tinkled as artist Donna Green walked around Magical Moon Farm in Marshfield, listing projects at every turn.
There is the rose garden with a small reading nook that one family is building. In another corner is a metal bed that, instead of a mattress, bears greenery planted as a memorial for a friend of the farm who died at a young age.
There is also the community kitchen complete with mason jars and healthy food cookbooks, a half-constructed castle in the backyard that children are building by hand, a chicken coop for fresh eggs, a dress-up room filled with clothes, and a store and studio for Green’s paintings.
Magical Moon Farm is still a work in progress, Green said, but she can picture it with projects all done, the way she envisioned it when she purchased the property more than a decade ago.
Yet the purpose of the farm, which Green runs by herself, lies not in the colorful garden or the fall market. Rather, the property has become a gathering place for families to heal, mainly families whose young children have brain cancer or leukemia.
“When I started to work with the families, I started to realize a big part of their healing . . . was being together,” Green said. “And the farm was a magnet for that.
“Magical Moon Farm is magical anyways,” she said. “There is an atmosphere that is just magnetic. When the families came, I realized a huge part of helping them stay strong was just staying together and having activities where they could do that.”
Some of the activities can be seen around the 5-acre space. Other projects are performed by the children away from the campus. They are knighted and take on missions to improve the world around them, as they make their personal journey through cancer.
“[We] encourage them to take on a mission, so that their mind and energy and emotions, everything would go towards that,” Green said. “It would make them stronger; it would give everyone around them something to focus on.”
The missions are coupled with gatherings and get-togethers in the area, such as a trip last month to a Scituate farm to kick off the mission of 14-year-old Hailey Giguere, who is writing a book to help young children get through their first MRI.
According to Green, the farm, the events, and celebrations make the cancer journey more about living and surviving, and the missions give some aspect of control to children who largely do not have any.
The idea for the Magical Moon Foundation came in the mid-1990s, before Green had even seen the farm. An illustrator by trade, she had struggled through different kinds of cancer herself, then recovered from Lyme disease that, for a time, left her too crippled to hold a paintbrush.
“She was imagining, first of all, why it is she’s been saved so many times from her own illnesses,” said her friend Betty Greene. “It started to occur to her, at least from her own understandings, that she has got something to do. Perhaps it’s not just to design pretty picture books for kids and adults. Then the whole world of cancer kids started coming into her peripheral vision, then her focal vision.”
Children who fell in love with Green’s illustrations for an edition of “The Velveteen Rabbit” started contacting her as they began their cancer treatments. Soon after that, Green established the foundation and in 1996 paid $375,000 for the farm, which has become an extension of the foundation’s work.
The foundation became a nonprofit in 2004, and since then, a number of families have become involved with the farm, visiting from places near and far to meet Green and spend time at the farm.
The missions of the children helped to bind the families together, and the successes are celebrated as a group. Together, the families say they have grown stronger.
“It’s the only way you survive, to be honest,” said Alice Williams.
Her daughter, 14-year-old Lexie, is a cancer survivor. “I know there are people who want to do this journey by themselves, maybe very private people, but most families need each other,” Alice Williams said.
Yet the community of Magical Moon is unlike that of a normal neighborhood or even the extended family that many turn to in crisis.
“No one else really understands what it’s like, the journey and the day-to-day emotional toll the journey takes,” Williams said. “When you’re with someone who is going through it, there are no questions. You just know, and they understand.”
“There’s no judgment; you just are who you are,” agreed Jan Lanosa, the mother of 12-year-old Michael, who is an eight-year cancer survivor. “And we all have the same thing in common, that our babies got cancer.”
Even as friends die, having that support is paramount, Lanosa said.
The community also helps those still making the journey, said Michael Lanosa, who has been with Magical Moon for over six years.
“When kids come here that have cancer and they see the rest of us that are from one year . . . out of treatment, up to eight years out of treatment, it’s empowering to see that all these kids have survived,” he said.
“There is definitely a feeling of hope,” said Lisa Giguere, the mother of Hailey, who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. “At the farm, when we’re all together, it makes it easier for her. Just being with other kids that are like her makes it easier.”
Almost as important in the healing process is Green herself, who has been a tremendous resource, said Julia Stoddard, whose 4-year-old daughter, Sophie Pettengale, has just completed a two-year treatment for leukemia.
“It was the first time I could talk to someone about the bigger issues, especially about the nutrition and healthy living and integrative approach and therapies,’’ Stoddard said. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my God, there is someone I can talk to about nutrition.’ ”
The atmosphere Green has created at the farm is open and welcoming, even if it is as simple as playing on the swing in a garden.
“It’s deep, important, life-changing conversations about the process of healing,” Stoddard said.
In other words, it is just as Green imagined it to be.
“I felt it the minute I walked on the property,” Green said. “I saw everything done. I saw all the people and the children, had this image of the whole thing being a community-type, family-
That ability to make a dream come to life is perhaps Magical Moon’s greatest healing power, she believes. And if hope creates magic, than Magical Moon is brimming with it.
“The reality that the concept of dreaming can be healing has been illustrated to me so often through the Magical Moon,’’ said her friend Betty Greene.
“It’s imagining, dreaming, doing, and seeing the results,” she said, “. . . and the kids and the parents are discovering that at Magical Moon – this is working.”
email@example.com. To find out more about the Magical Moon Foundation, visit magicalmoon.org.