Celebrating nature

Early Wednesday morning, rain clouds threatened to dampen a special event planned for a group of students from the Webster City Middle School. But the sun broke through and provided warm sunshine for the nature activity at Briggs Woods.

Members of the Town and Country Garden Club hosted a group of Special Olympics athletes to a breakfast in the big red barn Briggs Woods Lake.

The athletes are fresh from the recent regional competition in Fort Dodge. Several of the athletes are preparing to compete in the State Special Olympics games in Ames on May 24 and others are planning to go along to cheer on their friends. The students will also participate in the official Torch Run festivities May 23 at 10 a.m. at the Middle School.

But Wednesday’s outing was all about celebrating nature and learning, according to garden club officials. Barbara Sylvester, co-president of the Town and Country Garden Club, said the organization has been holding the event for the athletes for many years.

“We’ve enlarged it over the years a little bit, done things like painting rocks and going on nature walks to view the wildflowers,” she said. The club planted many of the wildflowers along the paved trails through Briggs Woods Park that circle the lake. Members of the club guided the students and their teachers on the hike Wednesday. Also along the way, the students had a chance to see Canada Geese, ducks and other water birds flying in to land on the lake.

“This gives the kids a chance to get outside, enjoy the spring weather and express themselves. They learn about wildflowers and nature,” Sylvester said. “It’s fun for all of us and I think the kids enjoy it, too.”

About 30 of the club’s 58 members came out to help with the event, according to Sylvester. Many of the members, she said, are former teachers who enjoy the interaction with the children.

Sylvester’s daughter serves as co-president of the club and was one of the volunteers helping with the activities. Amber Sylvester has the unique perspective of having been a Special Olympics athlete who participated in the annual garden club nature event.

“I liked doing the plantings,” she said. “And now I get to help these kids do that.”

The youngsters also had a chance to plant a flower to take home and plant.

“The garden club has been inviting us out here to Briggs Woods for probably about 10 years,” said teacher Amy Steen. “The breakfast has always been planned after Special Olympics and so it’s been a neat way to honor the kids and then they do all of these wonderful activities.”

Steen said the morning a Briggs Woods is one of the students’ favorite activities during the school year.

“They are exposed to things that they aren’t normally exposed to and they’ve made friends with the club members they’ve seen year after year,” she said. “My kids are very social and this is a great social activity for them.”