Two Local Advocates Honored in Tree-Planting Ceremony at Smith Center


On Friday, May 7, in conjunction with National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, a tree-planting ceremony was held at the Smith Center. Trees were planted in memory of Dr. Larry Richards, Four Oaks’ longtime psychiatric physician, and in honor of Iowa State Senator Liz Mathis, who served as Four Oaks’ Chief Community Officer before her election to the Legislature. Dr. Richards and Sen. Mathis were recognized for their service and advocacy in the name of children’s mental health.

Trees Forever, a Marion-based nonprofit that works to connect people to the environment through the planting and care of trees, prairie, and other natural areas, donated the Bur Oak that was planted in memory of Dr. Richards. He retired in 2020 and died in June of that year. A Red Maple was planted in honor of Sen. Mathis.

“We are so pleased to be able to honor and remember Dr. Larry Richards in such a meaningful way. He is remembered for his many years of service and the care he provided to youth in our in-patient programs at the Smith Center campus,” Anne Gruenewald, Four Oaks President and CEO, said.

Sen. Mathis was recognized for championing children’s mental health. During her time in the Legislature, she has introduced several bills about children’s needs, worked on the children’s mental health system design, and currently sits on the Children’s Behavioral Health System State Board. She continues to advocate on behalf of Iowa’s children and families and on ensuring strong health and human services across the state.