School garden still thrives in memory of slain classmate

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — The late Jameson "Jamie" Kirk-Hahn is likely smiling down upon a group of young children at Orangeburg Preparatory Schools who are continuing to put their little hearts into making sure the garden planted in her honor stays alive and well.

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"Jamie's Garden" first took shape in the back of OPS' Lower Campus in 2013 in remembrance of Kirk-Hahn, who was killed in her North Carolina home in April 2013 at the age of 29.

The quaint garden contains eight wooden boxes filled with rich, dark dirt and four large handcrafted granite benches which are all placed under a wooden canopy.

Children from grades 4- and 5-K through fifth grade have adopted a box filled with everything from blueberries and strawberries to radishes and carrots.

A group of 4-K students, who planted their box filled with items such as oregano, pumpkins, ornamental kale, pansies, blueberries and strawberries approximately two weeks ago, gathered back out at the garden on Oct. 24.

4-K teacher Dena Gleaton said, "You can plant whatever you want, but we want it to be something edible that the kids can eat. Every grade is assigned a box and the kids got to help plant it. All three 4-K classes had a great day doing that."

Mary Crawford, a member of Orangeburg's Late Bloomers Garden Club, helped the 4-year-olds with their planting at the request of Cathy Smith, a 4-K teacher assistant at OP who is also a member of the Late Bloomers Garden Club.

"That was fun. The plants have had a couple of weeks to establish, and they're looking good. A couple of the strawberry bushes had strawberries on them. So that was fun for them to see," Crawford said.

"We just put a few pansies in the ground, but they're all edible. I broke off a little piece of oregano and passed it around so they could smell it. They said, 'That smells like spaghetti sauce!'" Crawford said, laughing.

Gleaton said, "It was just fun seeing their hands get dirty. They were excited and just to be able to see the process go from the ground to where the foods can go on their plate. That's something we're gonna look forward to in the springtime."

Four-year-olds Cheyanne Whetstone and Yari Samuel said they enjoyed the planting process, messy hands included.

"It was good," Samuel said, noting that her favorite part was planting the strawberries, blueberries and flowers.

Whetstone said she liked "the plants because I can eat them."

"I like blueberries and strawberries and grapes," she said, smiling.

Jamie's mother and OP teacher Debra Funderburk said she couldn't be prouder of how the garden has thrived. She said it makes her happy to be able to look at all of the activity at the garden from her office window.

"I just can't tell you how much that means to me. Jamie had become such a big gardener herself. That's why her classmates took that stance because they knew about her gardening. She had a blog on healthy eating and sustainable food. So that's how they came up with what they were going to do," Funderburk said.

Kirk-Hahn was a member of OPS' class of 2002, members from which got together to create a garden in her honor.

"I'm happy for the students that worked so hard. It was her graduating class that put it all up. That summer classmates from near and far came and worked and worked and worked," Funderburk said.

Gleaton said, "I think for Jamie's mom to see kids in this area is just such a tribute to her, that she lives on. Before we had something planted, we would sometimes just bring our kids out here to read a Bible story. I would love for Ms. Debra to see some activity in Jamie's Garden."

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Information from: The Times & Democrat, http://www.timesanddemocrat.com

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