MOULTRIE, Ga. — Sunset Elementary School re-dedicated Chandler’s Garden, a collection of lemon trees that students planted in honor of Chandler Booth, a former student who died in September.
The ceremony, held Thursday behind the school on Highway 319 near the Moultrie city limits, recognized the work of last year’s second graders in creating the garden and the work of this year’s second graders, who expanded it.
Booth was diagnosed as a baby with neuroblastoma but he beat it, according to a story in The Moultrie Observer in February 2018. Years later he developed a brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme, which was likely caused by the radiation treatment he received for the earlier cancer.
Second graders at Sunset Elementary, where Booth’s mother teaches math, were reading a book about Alex’s Lemonade Stand last year. The Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is a national charity that raises money for cancer research. It was written by the parents of a Connecticut girl who also had neuroblastoma and who raised money for cancer research with a lemonade stand.
One of the second graders put forth the idea of planting lemon trees in the school garden, according to Doug Yarbrough, the school’s STEM academic coach. The trees would produce lemons, which the students could squeeze to make lemonade, which they could then sell and donate the proceeds to Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Alexandra “Alex” Scott died in 2004 at the age of 8.
Yarbrough told the audience Thursday that his grandmother, Irene Cox, had lemon trees that produce huge lemons, so he got some seeds from her. The second graders planted them in pots, let them sprout then transplanted them early this year into the school garden.
The garden was initially dedicated in May, and those second graders progressed to the third grade at the end of the school year.
Booth died Sept. 5 at the age of 17.
This year’s second graders then took up where their predecessors left off, expanding the garden with the donation of six more lemon trees.
Yarbrough said lemon trees take six to eight years from seeds to begin producing fruit, but the more recent donations are older and are already bearing. The plan is to continue expanding the garden every year, he said.
Sunset Elementary is working to achieve its STEM certification — respected for its teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — and it seeks to emphasize health care and medical issues, but Yarbrough said the garden offers them even more.
“Not only do they see the medical side of things,” he said, “they get to see the farming side of things too.”
Beyond that, though, he emphasized that the project enables the students, even as young as they are, to address a real-world problem.
“It’s showing them they can make a difference,” he said.
And it may pale compare to the difference they may someday make, Kim Booth told the second and third graders assembled for the dedication.
“Maybe you’ll be the one in the lab who finally figures out cancer,” she told them. “Maybe you’ll be the one who makes it so we don’t have to do this any more.”