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Birmingham, Royal Oak

June 11, 2014

New garden helps kids grow into healthier lifestyles

By Robin Ruehlen and Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writers

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New garden helps kids grow into healthier lifestyles
With mom Julie’s help, Lauren Aichler, 3, of Royal Oak, digs into the new community garden at the South Oakland YMCA in Royal Oak. The garden was built during the center’s annual Healthy Kids – Healthy Communities event.

BIRMINGHAM/ROYAL OAK — It’s not unheard of for young children to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon outside playing in the mud. This summer, kids visiting the South Oakland Family YMCA will have a good excuse to get down and dirty as they harvest veggies from their new community garden.

The Junior League of Birmingham teamed up with Oakland County nonprofit Little Green Gardeners to build a community garden at the South Oakland Family YMCA in Royal Oak June 7. The event, called Healthy Kids – Healthy Communities, brought local K-five students together to encourage them to learn more about nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

The garden, which includes a variety of vegetables in six beds for the students to harvest throughout the summer, is the first of its kind for the Junior League of Birmingham. Little Green Gardeners, on the other hand, has built several gardens at elementary schools around Oakland County to teach children about health and sustainability.

Participants planted and watered the veggies on Saturday, and they painted the white picket fence bordering the garden.

Kristie Lohmeir, chair of the communications committee for the JLB, said that it’s part of the league’s mission to promote wellness in the community, so the partnership was a natural fit.

“We both have a goal to help young people build healthier lives, so it’s perfect from that standpoint,” she said. “The Royal Oak YMCA became available to do this, and they draw people from Birmingham, Royal Oak and really the entire area.”

The hope was that the garden would complement the South Oakland Family YMCA’s annual Healthy Kids Day, held each spring, according to South Oakland Family YMCA Sports Specialist Antonio Douthet. He said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to incorporate the community garden into the event, which drew a crowd of more than 75 families.

“I think it brings (the kids) a different aspect as far as healthy living,” said Douthet.

The goal of the June 7 event was to show youngsters how eating healthy can improve their spiritual and physical well-being. That was coupled with athletic events like Zumba Latin dance instruction, Hula-Hooping, trikke bikes, and basketball and T-ball to demonstrate fitness.

Whole Foods Market served up smoothies while Blue Care Network distributed handouts and recyclable lunch bags.

“Everyone had a great time, and it was a beautiful, picture-perfect day,” said Jacquelyn Schrop, JLB member and event co-chair.

Throughout the summer, children attending the YMCA’s summer day camp will tend to the garden and the carrots, cucumbers, peppers, parsley, rosemary, mint and other items planted there. Come fall, the JLB hopes to incorporate the nutritious goodies into a junior chef competition in its Kids in the Kitchen program.

Lohmeir said volunteers are needed to plan that competition and other JLB efforts. People interested in contributing time or resources to the JLB or the community garden, including monetary donations or gardening supplies, can visit www.jlbham.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robin Ruehlen at rruehlen@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1105.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.