NORMAL — Jessica Chambers tried for years to get enough money for a vertical xylophone for the children’s garden at the Illinois State University Horticulture Center.

The money finally came through and the wooden instrument was installed Sept. 28, a day before the annual Autumnal Festival at the gardens off Raab Road.

Now, Chambers is back to square one.

The xylophone — and many other parts of the center’s gardens — were damaged overnight Wednesday in a vandalism spree that caused an estimated $2,000 to $3,000 in damage.

“We have to raise funds for every piece of wood,” said Chambers, director of the horticulture center. “It’s a step back for us.”

While there was spotty damage in several of the gardens, including broken plants and a broken arbor in the center’s herb garden, the most damage occurred in the children’s garden.

A two-tiered arbor that once was draped with morning glories is now on the ground in two pieces; half of the morning glories are dead. Ceramic gnomes that used to hide under some plants were thrown into a play sand area and several were broken.

A glass flower and gazing ball and giant pumpkins and gourds were smashed. A little free library in a reading area was trashed. A wire and paper caterpillar that used to stretch about 8 feet was squashed.

“There was no appreciation for creations other people did,” Chambers said.

Some of the damage was personal for Chambers, whose mother had painted two of the signs broken by the vandals.

“It looks like one was broken over someone’s knees,” she said. “This is just mean.”

ISU police took a report. It appears the vandals drove into the gardens through the regular entryway, drove around all the garden areas and then left by driving through the grass and back onto Raab Road. Tire tracks were visible in the wet grass Thursday morning.

Donations toward repairing the damage may be sent to Chambers at 136 Ropp Ag Building, Campus Box 5020, Normal, IL 61790-5020.

More from

(14) comments


As owner of a local garden center , I have worked with Jessica and her students for many years , and no how much time and hard work they have put into the gardens. It is a shame that this had to happen. I hope that the community will help out in her efforts to mend the damage that was done , I no I will....

DT Resident

How unfortunate! We had our wedding pictures taken there last fall, it was beautiful! Sorry to hear about what happened, will definitely be donating!


I'm familiar with the gardens and yes, a lot of sweat equity has gone into making them what they are today, I also know many of the volunteers who have provided the sweat equity and you can bet your bottom dollar the gardens will be restored and will be even more spectacular. My donation to help is on its way. Jessica, don't let this act of cowardly vandalism slow down your visions for these wonderful gardens. Justice will be served to those mindless individuals who were involved.


As grandparent of two I am disgusted with the lack of concern these vandals have for the many school age kids that enjoy that garden. I've been there with kindergarten class and it was a real treat for the kids. This is a very generous community of people and I am certain the garden will be restored.


My kids and I were there last weekend to enjoy the gardens and activities. When I told my kids about it they were upset that someone would ruin the gardens. It's sad that people don't have anything better to do with there time! We will be sending money to help with the repairs.


This is truly sad. It will take a couple years to grow back to where it was.


Outrageous lack of respect for the property and work of others! Sending a check today, and hoping the vandals are caught soon and prosecuted. A sentence that includes community service, of the back-breaking, cleaning-up-someone-else-mess-type might be a useful lesson, and they were obviously not taught well at home.


Disgusting. I hope they find out who did this, and make them repair everything they did, and work on replanting the gardens next year. Someone has to know something.


Maybe there is a hidden camera somewhere that caught these vandals entering, exiting, and in the act. If the vandals knew what was good for them, they should admit wrong doing now and throw themselves at the mercy of the judge after being charged. Sooner or later these types of vandals get caught and then its oh not my kid could have done that.


As a non-traditional student at ISU and one of Jessica's student employees, this is heart breaking to see the sadness it has brought to the wonderful volunteers and staff of the Horticulture Center. I am living my high school dream to get my degree in Horticulture, and have moved here two years ago to do that. Since working with everyone at the center for more than a year now, they have become my family. I hate that rude people take joy in destroying my family's hard work and hurting them emotionally too.

Uncle Ben
Uncle Ben

This is just disgusting. I personally think that vandalism should result in harsher judicial penalty than burglary. At least the burglar has a purpose other than just senseless destruction, and doesn't usually damage property. OK, yeah he may steal it, but doesn't usually leave wanton destruction in his wake. And, if these persons are identified (and they will be, somebody will brag about it on Facebook or just to friends, and they will be found) and are minors, their parents should be held financially responsible for damages

As far as prevention, somebody should approach Ameren to see if they would install 3 or 4 telephone poles upon which to mount cameras. They are inexpensive and can be set up to be motion activated. An even more effective deterrent are motion activated lights. I guarantee nothing will cause a group of young hooligans to freak and run, more effectively than suddenly being illuminated my a couple thousand watts of halogen floodlights.

I will be sending a check.


I would agree and hope that Ameren would donate the poles and labor.


I agree with you and maybe Ameren would donate the poles for your project.


Karma will not be fun!!!!!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.