Eagle Scout's service project benefits special children

June 25, 2004|TIM WISEMAN

Dwarfed by giant cabbages, Micah Arnold picked a purple pansy for his mother. His teacher, Jenn Fitzhugh, crouched beside him, saying "purple" so 2-year-old Micah could repeat it. On the other side of the garden, 2-year-old Lisa McKinney poked around in the chrysanthemums.

In this garden, the two can be their own bosses, as they explore their senses around scented herbs such as mint and lemon balm, flowers such as marigolds and strawberry plants.

"We want them to touch things and just get their senses involved," Fitzhugh said.

The garden is part of the Wilderness Trace Child Development Center's early intervention programs for children with special needs such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism.

Early intervention programs seek to help these children develop their senses and motor skills at a young age, and the garden is a perfect tool for speech, occupational and physical therapies, said Leslie Hardman, an occupational therapist at Ephraim McDowell Wellness Center.


Children practice motor skills and learn about following directions as teachers lead them in explorations of the garden. Or the kids can do their own thing.

"For children, it's really nice," she said. "There is nothing in here that can hurt them, so they can just explore."

Started 20 years ago, Wilderness Trace Child Development Center has been in its current facility for three years. Funded by Heart of Kentucky United Way, United Way of Mercer County and individual donations, it is a private, non-profit agency that serves Boyle, Casey, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties.

The center had wanted a garden like this one for years, but it needed some help to get what it wanted, said Linda Singler, executive director of the center.

Joshua Ormsby needed some help, too.

Last summer, Joshua, now 15, was close to finishing the requirements to become an Eagle Scout. He had one requirement left, a community service project.

It was a perfect match, Singler said.

Joshua decided to make the garden his service project, and so he spent the next two months researching sensory gardens to create a design to fit the center's needs. In September, he organized his scout troop, No. 119, to collect supplies and construct the garden.

"It was fun doing it for the kids," Joshua said.

Singler said the kids have gained a great deal from Joshua's project, and for that she is grateful to him.

"He was wonderfully instrumental in this garden," Singler said. "It's been a perfect thing for the children."

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