A man and woman move a burlap-wrapped tree into a hole
U of G MLA student Everett DeJong installs a tree at St. Peter’s Hospital-Hamilton Health Sciences with a worker from Cedar Springs Landscaping

A project conceived by University of Guelph landscape architecture graduate students to install a single bench and tree on the grounds of Canadian hospitals as a respite for health-care workers continues to expand.

Since the inaugural One Bench One Tree project was unveiled in June 2021 at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, where Canada’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed, the project has grown further.

A second installation took place over the summer at the St. Peter’s Hospital-Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Ont., while two othes took place at Sunnybrook’s St. John’s Rehab Centre in North York, Ont., and at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital in St. Thomas, Ont.

Four other installation projects are in the works, including at:

  • London Health Sciences Centre
  • Thunder Bay Regional Health Science
  • Ottawa Hospital General Campus
  • Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa
Two hospital staff at St. Peter’s Hospital in Hamilton sit on a bench and look at a tree planted as part of the One Bench, One Tree project.
Hospital staff at St. Peter’s Hospital in Hamilton view a tree planted as part of the One Bench, One Tree project

On hospital grounds, each bench is affixed to a concrete pad provided by Unilock. A tree is then planted two metres away to represent the physical distance Canadians have been asked maintain since March 2020.

A plaque is placed at each tree to indicate that the landscaping is a gift of rest dedicated to front-line workers on behalf of all Canadians.

A plaque near the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto in June 2021 (Photo by Kevin Van Paassen/Sunnybrook)

The idea for the project came together over the winter break in early 2021, when master of landscape architecture (MLA) students Everett Dejong, Alli Neuhauser, Casey Ross, Manuel Spiller, Marika Li, Tiffany Adair, Ethan Aquino-Chien and Abigayle Lalonde discussed what they could do to thank front-line workers for everything they have given during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s important to let the front-line workers know that Canadians are thinking about them, and we are thankful for all their efforts they have put in since the pandemic started,” said Neuhauser, a second-year MLA student and a member of the organizing committee.

“The hospitals have been very responsive and thankful that a group of MLA students took the time to think about them in this way.”

The team aims to have 10 sites installed in Ontario this year and to expand the program nationally. Landscape Ontario and a growing list of sponsors, including the Canadian Mental Health Association, continue to support the project.

The first 10 benches have been donated by Maglin Site Furniture based in Woodstock, Ont., and the group is purchasing sugar, red and silver maple trees from NVK Nurseries in Hamilton in association with Maple Leaves Forever, a Toronto-based charitable foundation that aims to plant native maples across Canada.

The One Bench One Tree is accepting donations to expand the project even further at 1bench1tree.ca.


Alli Neuhauser