Member Stories

What role does Red Butte Garden play in your life?

We asked this question to Jill Pecchia-Bekkum, mother of nine and Red Butte Garden Volunteer. This was her response:

Dear Garden Supporter,

Red Butte Garden is like a second home to me, my husband Steve, and our nine children: Christian, Zacchariah, Simon, Annika, Elias, Pippi, Mattias, Jonas and Magnus. We are nearing our sixteenth year of volunteering here as a family, and with each year comes excitement and opportunity. We enjoy watching the Garden grow and change, and we cherish our part in that process. We treasure the beauty of the Garden—the electric fall colors, the peaceful evenings. It is a refuge from the city, a community focused on stewardship. My nineteen-year-old daughter Annika captures the Garden beautifully when she says, “At the Garden, I become connected to a wider, wilder world that I rarely see in the regular hubbub of everyday life.”

I first came to Red Butte Garden when we had just five children. Our family had recently moved from Minnesota, and a good friend raved about how wonderful the Garden was—particularly the Children’s Garden. Christian was the first to volunteer, but I soon found myself and my children spending our time exploring the Garden as Christian worked. We still laugh about how hard it was to get the kids to leave! More than once, they asked if they could move into the Quarry House in the Natural Area of the Garden.

Over the years, each member of my family has developed a special, individual connection to the Garden. We have our own memories about the people we’ve met and the events we love. Just this year, my three-year-old daughter Magnus attended a Lyle Lovett concert with the family. Part way through the show, I noticed she was crying. Surprised, I asked her what was wrong. “His voice is so beautiful, I have to go sing with him,” she answered as her voice cracked. We now joke that she can’t wait to be a backup singer for Lyle Lovett.

Pecchia-Bekkum Family
From left to right: Jill, Jonas, Magnus, Mattias, Pippi

I think one reason my family has found value in the Garden is because there is so much to do here. When I tell people where I volunteer, they often say, “Oh I wouldn’t want to do that. I hate yard work.” But Red Butte Garden is so much more than yard work! If you don’t like gardening, take a cooking class; volunteer at a concert; attend a bird watching tour; watch a cultural dance show during Monday Family Night; listen to a lecture on the native plants of Utah; sign your kids up for summer camp.

The Garden’s emphasis on education continues to be an inspiration to my family and me. I get so excited when I see school buses in the parking lot because I can’t imagine a better field-trip than coming to the Garden for hands-on learning sessions about the environment and conservation. Yet, I’m also grateful that the education does not stop with the kids. Just one great example is the Water Conservation Garden, which is breaking ground next year. This Garden will show visitors how to be better stewards of one of our most precious desert resources.

Perhaps most importantly, however, my family has become part of a community at the Garden. We have friends in their teens, and we have friends in their eighties. We’ve even made friends with some of the performers! Years ago, while we were attending a Monday Family Night, a man came and sat next to me. We talked for a bit and then, to my amazement, he walked on stage and began singing. He was the performer! The volunteers are always a pleasure to work with, and the staff is so appreciative of our help. We have volunteered at places where the staff is not helpful or grateful, and it makes us not want to go back. But at Red Butte Garden, we’ve always felt valued.

Red Butte Garden is a respite from the city. It is a place of adventure and learning. It is a place that values education and emphasizes conservation. The Garden is a haven for the creation of memories. Please donate to Red Butte Garden so it can continue as that vital haven in our community, where our children can go to feel a connection to our beautiful state. I understand that there is more than one way of helping the Garden—more than one way of showing support—but even if you give five dollars, that’s five dollars that goes to the Garden.

With Gratitude,

Jill Pecchia-Bekkum

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