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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 3 years ago

For their Silver Project, three Girls Scouts planted a hedge at Better Times Farm

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The hedge will provide the farm's riding-therapy students more privacy during lessons
by: Brittany Gaines Reporter

WINTER GARDEN A row of 80 baby viburnum shrubs stand guard along the fence line at Better Times Farm.

The hedge was a request months in the making that three ninth-grade girls answered.

Amber Wilkinson, Taylor Smith and Karlen Randle, with Girl Scout Troop No. 4571 of the Dr. Win Service Unit, banded together several months ago to plan their Silver Award project - an achievement the Girl Scouts can only complete once they become a Cadette. 

When the trio learned of the farm’s need for a sound barrier between the riding arenas and Avalon Road, they knew it would make a perfect Silver Award project.

For months, the busy road had not only become a distraction for the horses but also their riders, some of who suffer from disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy.

“We counted the cars that passed by in an hour, and it was about 200 cars,” Randle said.

This is exactly why Elizabeth Oberdick has advocated for some kind of sound barrier along the fence that backs up to Avalon Road.

“I had been asking for a hedge to be able to buffer that noise for the kids,” said Oberdick, who works as the volunteer coordinator and a therapy instructor with SpiritHorse. “So, we were really grateful that they were able to do this.”

In addition to regular riding lessons, the farm also operates a nonprofit organization called SpiritHorse at Better Times Farm that provides private, therapeutic riding lessons to children diagnosed with autism, attention deficit disorder, cerebral palsy and other disabilities. 

For Wilkinson and Randle, helping Better Times Farm was natural; both girls have taken riding lessons there for years and volunteer at the farm nearly every Sunday. 

“I help with therapy lessons, and (the rider) is always distracted,” Randle said. “So (the hedge) will help.”

In the case of Smith, it was her love of horses and friendship with Wilkinson and Randle that drew her to the project.

“It’s going for a good cause,” she said.

The planning process required several meetings between the three girl scouts and representatives from the farm, but once they got approval from both the farm and Girl Scouts, it was full steam ahead. 

“It was a top-notch idea,” said Wilkinson’s mom, Denise. “For them to come up with this idea, I thought it was deep thinking for them.”

For the perfect shrubbery, the girls searched for a bush that would grow quickly, grow tall and wouldn’t break the bank. They settled on viburnum suspensum, a leafy, green bush that is often used to create hedges. Expected to reach a height between six and 12 feet in just a few years, the shrubs were a perfect fit for the farm’s needs.

Together the three girls raised the money needed to purchase the plants, largely thanks to the support from their parents, and even managed to score a discount at Landscape Nursery Inc. located in Orlando.

On Sunday, Sept. 25, the girls and their families arrived at SpiritHorse at Better Times Farm with the 80 shrubs in tow ready for planting. And although planting all 80 bushes seemed like a daunting task, it only took about five hours to finish the job.

“I thought it would take a lot longer,” Wilkinson said.

While the bushes are barely a foot tall now, everyone is excited to see it slowly take over the fence line.

“Just knowing the improvements it’ll make is great,” Wilkinson said.

 

Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].

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