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CPS Teacher to Spend Summer Raising Funds for Wheelchair-Accessible Garden

By Wendell Hutson | June 17, 2014 5:21am
 A wheelchair-accessible garden is planned for Jane Neil Elementary School in Chatham.   
Jane Neil Elementary School Garden
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CHATHAM — Although the school year ended Friday for Chicago Public Schools, one teacher at Jane Neil Elementary School will continue fundraising on behalf of her students with disabilities.

Valerie Hardy, a science teacher at Neil, 8555 S. Michigan Ave., said she hoped to raise $3,000 to add to a $3,800 grant from Lowe's Toolbox for Education received earlier this year. The funds are earmarked for a school garden she hopes to have ready by September.

"This will be one busy summer for me. I have to get out here and beat the pavement trying to raise money," Hardy said. "All this is new for me because I have never had to raise this kind of money before. As of now my plan is to ask my co-workers, family and friends to make donations."

Hardy said nearly half of the 381 students at the school have special needs, such as wheelchairs, and those students have told her they would like to have a garden.

"This [garden] all got started from the students. We have students in wheelchairs, blind, deaf, you name it," she said. "That's when I agreed to spearhead this project. But I did not want to have a garden that handicapped students would not be able to enjoy. I want all of our students to be able to participate in the garden."

Hardy said $800 from the grant was used to hire Kinsella Landscape.

"I now need to get three bids to review for the project before moving forward. But in the meantime I plan to raise money for the garden," she said. "A new garden would make the school beautiful."

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), whose ward includes Neil, was unavailable for comment.

"I did reach out to the alderman, and he said he would put me in touch with someone who could help me, but I am still waiting," Hardy said.

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