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Garden serves as a constant reminder at Darby Woods Elementary
When the students at Darby Woods Elementary go outside for recess, they have a new place to spend their time.
A reading garden has been created to honor a student who passed away last year.
The reading garden has a brick wall that is the perfect height for students to sit on during their down time at school; they can read, visit with friends, or just sit.
“When it was being constructed, all of the kids wanted to get over there and sit on it. You would think the kids would want to play, but a lot of kids are already taking books out there and reading on their recess time,” said Kate Flanagan, a teacher at Darby Woods. “A lot of them are sitting there and spending social time with their friends.”
Tragedy struck Darby Woods Elementary in October 2009, when seven-year-old Caroline Casper suddenly died of a stroke. The cause of her stroke is still unknown.
Caroline was the first student at Darby Woods to die in the 15 years the school has been opened.
The dedication ceremony for the reading garden took place on Oct. 27. A crowd of people, many of which didn’t know Caroline, were at the ceremony to give their support to the Casper family.
“She was a wonderful student. She had a lot of passion. This was a very difficult tragedy in this school,” Flanagan said at the dedication ceremony.
She is survived by her mother, Heather, her father, Mickey, and her younger brother, Gavin.
Heather Casper is a teacher at Darby Woods.
“Because of that reason a lot of us got to know Caroline on a bit of a different level than just a student. She would show up in our room because she was a teacher’s kid and we just got to know her more on a personal level than we got to know other kids,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan took on the task of planning and raising funds for the memorial reading garden. With the help of Flanagan and the community the interactive memorial became a reality.
An architect from Environmental Management Incorporated (EMI) thought the project should be an active celebration of Caroline’s life. Completion of the project took about 10 months.
“We wanted an interactive memorial. We wanted it to be something that reflected what Caroline did. She was an avid reader and very social child. So we kind of wanted to incorporate that,” Flanagan said.
Almost $5,000 was raised for the memorial. The money was raised by numerous fundraisers, including a Mother’s Day flower sale, a candy sale, and various bake sales the PTA helped with. A flyer was also sent out to parents and staff, asking them to donate whatever they could.
All of the bricks were donated by Wellnitz, thanks to owner Tom Kreft. “He was the one who really initiated the donation of the bricks,” Flanagan said.
Kreft said the donation was a good thing to do in her memory.
Construction of the project was done by EMI.
“EMI was the only company that stood up when the other companies backed out. They were just fabulous and we appreciate everything they have done,” Flanagan said.
The next phase in the project will be to add a plaque with the name of the garden, Caroline’s Garden, and it will become a learning center for students.
The completed project will be a lab with plants and a butterfly garden. Funds are still being raised for this part of the project.
Heather Casper runs a recycling program with the school and all the money that comes from that is going directly to the garden.
“We all knew her so well. We saw her everyday and she was a part of our lives so I think this is a fitting memorial and just a celebration of her life,” Deborah Reed, the school’s principal, said.
Heather Casper said she is very happy with the way the garden turned out, “It’s a place where I can see kids play and enjoying each other’s company and remember her and seeing her visiting with her friends on the playground,” Casper said.
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