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Flower donation brightens Sand Hills' campus, students

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Sand Hills Principal Sherri Cunningham (far left) joins students and staff members as they plant some of the donated flowers.
Photo by Kristopher Wells
Students who struggle with special emotional and behavioral challenges every day can retreat to the peace and quiet of a refurbished school garden thanks to the generosity of a local nursery and the efforts of the Leadership McDuffie program.

Students at Sand Hills Psychoeducational Center are already enjoying the enlarged Therapeutic Butterfly Garden after they helped plant the 50 colorful, vibrant perennials donated by McCorkle Nurseries last week, said Sherri Cunningham, school principal.

"The students use the garden for reflection and relaxation. It's a chance for them to get out and enjoy nature," Mrs. Cunningham said. "They can work in the garden, and learn how the plants grow. It pulls the academics in as well."

The idea of a garden began when a group of students showed such an enjoyment of working outside and found it relaxing. As it evolved, school personnel found gardening helps the students interact with one another as their enthusiasm for flowers overcomes any reluctance to socialize.

Last week while putting in the new plants, a couple of students who didn't think they would enjoy digging in the dirt found great satisfaction in carefully placing the roots in the rich soil and giving water to the new transplants.

Students will continue to enjoy the garden the rest of the school year, and some who live locally are looking forward to the responsibility of watering the plants over the summer.

"They are very protective of the garden. We are so thankful to McCorkle Nurseries and Leadership McDuffie for joining forces to help our kids," said Ms. Cunningham, who noted the garden has grown significantly in size since the plant donation.

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A Sand Hills student carries flowers to the special garden.
Photo by Kristopher Wells
Members of Leadership McDuffie toured Sand Hills as part of an overview of education in the area, and saw how important the butterfly garden was to the students.

"We saw the need for more color in there, and thought it would be therapeutic for the students," said Tara Pounds, a member of Leadership McDuffie who is the accounting manager at McCorkle Nurseries. She told her company about the garden and they responded generously with a truckload of blooming perennials and a pledge to partner with the school in replenishing the garden throughout the year.

"McCorkle's donation was extraordinary, and the students were so excited," said Kelly Evans, a member of Leadership McDuffie.

As part of the organization's annual effort, 20 -- 25 community leaders attend a two day retreat in January and discuss community involvement and ways to sharpen leadership skills across several areas, Ms. Evans said.

The group decided to help Sand Hills after touring the facility and seeing how important the garden was to the school which serves emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children from five counties.

Leadership McDuffie is pleased with the results and has now decided, "They need a fountain in that garden," Mrs. Evans said.

Members are discussing fundraising efforts for the fountain, and what the specifications should be, she said.



Web posted on Thursday, May 12, 2005











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