To refer to Tresa VanWinkle as a visionary makes her uncomfortable but that is what she is.
“My biggest challenge as a ‘visionary’, and it took a long time for me to accept that description, is taking that vision and translate it into a form that people can see and understand,” she said. “But once that’s done, other people get excited. I have learned that when inspired people work together, miracles happen.”
Inspiring others is what she does. Through her efforts as the only paid staff member along with a host of volunteers, the Trinity Turtle Healing Labyrinth project has made tremendous progress due to this inspiration.
VanWinkle is the executive director and founder of CAPPED, (Cancer Awareness Prevalence Prevention and Early Detection Inc.) Often referred to in Otero county as “The Miracle on New York Avenue” CAPPED is a non-profit corporation founded in 2000 in Alamogordo by a group of cancer survivors and their friends and family.
As an registered nurse for 30 years, VanWinkle watched the suffering in her patients caused by chronic but largely preventable diseases. In the late 90s, frustrated with often fruitless treatment protocols for her patients but inspired by her sister’s battle with breast cancer and a family with a history of chronic diseases, VanWinkle shifted her sights from treatment as a practicing nurse to prevention through education and wellness.
In 2003, the CAPPED building opened on New York Avenue and has delivered services to the community such as providing access to cancer prevention and general health information; the CAPPED Sun Safe Program to teach children about sun safety; the CAPPED Center for Integrative Health Care which houses Aqua Chi Footbath Center, BRiTe PEMF sessions for balance and relaxation; Human Touch Zero Gravity Chair; Zero Gravity Leg and Foot Massage; and the Human Touch Medical Massage Chair.
At the core of the CAPPED service model is the belief that prevention is the key to life-long health. The CAPPED vision statement is “A world without cancer and other preventable disease because we don’t have to fight it if we prevent it!”
VanWinkle and her board have formed two goals for the support and sustainability of the CAPPED mission. The first is a built environment for the primary prevention of chronic diseases in the form of Trinity Turtle Healing Labyrinth Park. The park is designed to be the largest permanent labyrinth in the United States at 300 feet by 300 feet.
The second goal is a lasting way to deliver integrative wellness and support services for cancer and other chronic diseases. This would be in the form of Trinity Turtle Village, a 14,400 square foot CAPPED building and 80 tiny house rental sites to be used for retreats and recovery and to generate funds for supporting the entire park. Those are two very large BHAGs as VanWinkle calls them, “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals!”
Phase 1, the turtle’s head, is a completed concrete labyrinth located about four miles south of Tularosa on Highway 54/70.
Phase 2 will be the body of the turtle and other amenities. The current target amount is to raise $200,000 by Jan. 30, 2020, for the next phase of the park. VanWinkle’s ask is for the community to understand the Trinity Turtle Healing Labyrinth park is owned by “every citizen in our county” as VanWinkle puts it.
“We need to pour a 200-by-200-foot slab of concrete – that comes to 40,000 square feet,” she said. That’s only five dollars per citizen if just over 60 percent of the population in Otero County donated. Otero County’s population was 65,817 in 2017 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
This round of funds will go to clearing the land, building and leveling the pad and ensuring ADA compliance all along.
“We don’t want any disability to stop any person from being able to walk the labyrinth,” VanWinkle said.
VanWinkle is donating her Christmas to help build a labyrinth that is going to last at least 100 years. She is asking each member of the community to do the same or at the very least, sponsor one square foot of what will eventually be the largest permanent labyrinth in the United States. (The next largest is a painted concrete labyrinth about 102 square feet at Lee’s Summit, Missouri.)
Troy Bentley had been volunteering at CAPPED, Inc. for over a year and encouraged his partner Kate Fontana to start helping as well. Fontana is partially blind and suffers from PTSD and severe anxiety. VanWinkle wanted to find ways to make the labyrinth accessible to the blind so Fontana and Bentley demonstrated a way that might be possible.
Bentley led the way and wiggled the fingers on both hands so that the clicking of his many rings could be heard by Fontana following barefoot close behind. He used varying speeds to help her understand whether they’re on a straight path or need to take a turn. Fontana said “I can’t describe how much of a feeling it is when you’ve gone to so many measures in your life and then suddenly something like this comes along.”
She credits the labyrinth and VanWinkle for healing her migraine and easing other discomforts as well.
“It brings a feeling of spiritual connection and gratitude. Just appreciation for life and being alive. (CAPPED) changed my life 100 percent, I can tell you that,” Fontana said.
What is a labyrinth and how do you use one?
In the case of the Trinity Turtle Labyrinth, the design of the labyrinth path on the body of the turtle is inspired by the Labyrinth of the Reims Cathedral and the path on the head of the turtle is fashioned after the Labyrinth of Chartres in the nave of the Chartres Cathedral. Both cathedrals are in France.
VanWinkle described each component of the turtle as serving a slightly different purpose. The head of Trinity Turtle is the children’s labyrinth and it reminds us that we need to spend quality time with our children and teach them our values so they can become wise adults.
The body is about adults. The simple act of walking the labyrinth reduces stress by 80 percent (John W. Rhodes PhD, Research Chairman, The Labyrinth Society.)
“Every decision we make is improving our health or detracting from it,” VanWinkle said.
If you have never walked a labyrinth before, here are a few bits of etiquette, from the website of The Theosophical Society in America.
Essentially, you follow a path to the center, where you might pause for a few moments. Then you reverse your direction and retrace your path back out to the starting point. In walking any labyrinth, it is recommended that you complete the pattern by following the path both in as well as out. Do not cut across the pattern at any point if possible.
If several persons walk a labyrinth at the same time, they may pass one another, going in either the same direction or opposite to each other. They may pass in meditative silence or quietly salute each other by a nod of the head or a small gesture. The effect of meeting fellow humans on the path is part of the labyrinthine experience. Remember that the labyrinth is a sacred space but a joyful one as well. You do not need to be somber, but if someone is walking the labyrinth, be courteous and respect the need they may have to concentrate on their own travels.
As you enter the labyrinth, you can focus your thoughts on a question or concern. You can also walk the labyrinth with no thoughts in particular, sensing without focusing on the wonder of the pattern. In the labyrinth, as in life, there is no single right way to follow the path.