After a career in sales, Raymond LaRocque was ready for a relaxed retirement with plans to perfect his golf game. At 55, however, plans changed following a spinal cord injury attributed to an autoimmune response. “I wouldn’t change a thing though,” declared LaRocque, now 69, of his paralysis from the waist down. “When something like this happens, you really learn how much love you have in your life.”
For LaRocque, that included the love of a cousin who introduced him to a new pastime: gardening. Together, along with LaRocque’s sons, they built five raised garden beds that granted him comfortable access from his wheelchair. “I couldn’t reach the garden in the ground so I brought the garden up to me! I realized that others would enjoy the same if only a product existed,” he explained. So, in 2008, LaRocque turned his avocation into an unexpected and impactful vocation by founding Accessible Gardens, a Rhode Island based company producing versatile and affordable raised garden beds to benefit people of all ages with various physical limitations.
“Our mission is to enable every individual with a physical disability or limitation to enjoy the mental, physical, social and spiritual benefits of gardening,” said LaRocque, noting that his client base is widespread from children to seniors with minor mobility restrictions to paralysis. Multiple research studies indicate that gardening can reduce stress and depression symptoms, while boosting muscle strength, mental clarity and a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, food gardeners who increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables may also reap the benefits of a decreased waistline and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Constructed from rot-resistant redwood and red cedar materials, Accessible Gardens offers an assortment of precision-engineered products that are ergonomically designed for wheelchairs, walkers and standing access. Orders are customized to meet height and size requests with feature options such as drainage, tool box storage, arm rests and trellises. Accessible Gardens recently launched its newest product: the Indoor/Outdoor Rolling Garden equipped with wheels. Its unique portability makes gardening conveniently accessible ─ even on rainy days ─ with the added freedom to switch up garden
Novice to gardening? No worries! Accessible Gardens can recommend types of vegetables or herbs and soil, and offer insight into seed spacing, watering and more. Accessible Gardens is committed to cultivating ideal horticulture experiences both in private residences’ and communal settings, such as assisted living facilities, hospitals & rehabilitation centers, memory care communities, municipal housing authorities, parks & playgrounds, retirement communities, senior centers, schools, skilled nursing homes and veterans’ homes & centers.
Products do not require any special site preparations and arrive within days of ordering with simple set up. Prices vary depending on customization from $400-$1000. To gain a better understanding of the benefits of gardening and the gardening possibilities that await, contact Accessible Gardens at (401) 290-7870 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit AccessibleGardens.com.
As for his “retirement,” in addition to gardening, LaRocque hits the golf course with adaptive clubs. Plus, he gets to work with his California-based sons who oversee one of Accessible Gardens’ three manufacturing facilities (the others are in Rhode Island and Canada). LaRocque’s second career as an entrepreneur has not only permeated his life with joy but has filled an important gap to benefit people all over the world!
Nancy DeVault is an Orlando area freelance writer, editor and PR pro. She is passionate about fitness, the outdoors, news, travel and baby snuggles.