Parents, students and volunteers gathered at John Brown Francis Elementary School Saturday morning wielding shovels and rakes. Nearly 50 people came to get dirty while beautifying the school.
What used to be a simple span of thinning grass at the front of the school is now a nearly completed Reading Garden, complete with a walkway of engraved bricks. Volunteers added greenery on Saturday, shoveling dirt and planting trees.
The project was the brainchild of PTA member and parent Tracey Dunn; $10,000 of PTA seed money made her vision a reality.
Jackie Harris-Connor, PTA president, said Saturday’s event was a big success. The garden will be completed by June 2.
Part of the garden will be devoted to former JBF student Ben Haight, who lost his battle with childhood Neuroblastoma, a form of cancer, in the third grade. Today, Ben would have been 18.
Nancy Haight, Ben’s mother, said the idea to dedicate a piece of the garden to Ben is touching.
“It means so much to us,” she said.
Because of Ben’s young age, Nancy said she worried people wouldn’t remember him. But those at John Brown Francis certainly remember Ben and are preserving his legacy of friendship, strength and community service.
“To do this for Ben means more than words can say,” she said. “His spirit still lives on.”
Nancy said dedicating part of the garden to Ben is particularly fitting because of his passion for reading.
“He loved reading so much,” she said.
In addition to his love of books, Ben had a love for his school and the people there.
“This school meant the world to him,” she said. “He touched a lot of lives.”