Student landscapers help teacher
Wielding dwarf fountain grass, redbud saplings and plenty of mulch, the De Soto High School environmental science class helped save the day -- or at least the yard -- at Karen Wall's new house last week.
The partially retired De Soto High School social studies teacher had hoped to spend a good part of spring working outdoors with her husband, Dean, to landscape the lot around their nearly completed home in rural De Soto.
But a rare and dangerous illness sent Dean to the hospital nearly two months ago and is expected to leave him partially paralyzed for up to six months more. In his absence, Wall welcomed helping hands from the environmental science class, which made a field day of helping her plant the yard Friday, and quite a few others from the school.
"It was a wonderful project," Wall said. "We had been planning to do that ourselves, but there's no way we could have done it. It was just a wonderful gift, a blessing."
On Friday, environmental science teacher Kevin Crisp kept things moving.
"Not to put any pressure on you guys or anything," he hollered out to about 15 class members working in Wall's yard toward the end of the day. "But we have one hour to get 14 plants planted in this extreme landscape makeover."
Students shoveled hole after hole and dropped tuft after tuft of fountain grass into the ground. They carefully added root stimulator to each tree and tamped mulch over everything.
Junior Mike Brown, a self-described "outdoor guy," said he was glad to be helping the Walls and extra-glad to be outdoors instead of in class on a sunny afternoon.
In helping with Walls' yard, Brown said the environmental science class put into practice a few landscaping lessons and also accomplished a good deed.
The block-scheduled class traditionally takes charge of much planting and landscaping at the high school, and Brown said the field trip matched the class motto: "Saving the environment every other day."
After Friday's effort, Walls' previously empty yard sported around 10 new trees, 14 shrubs, 24 clumps of decorative grass and 10 flowering shrubs, Wall said, adding that students even helped pick up a wooded area right behind the house.
"They just did an amazing amount of work," she said.
On March 3, Dean went to the hospital and was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Although its cause is not known, the syndrome is an inflammatory disorder of the peripheral nerves that affects one or two people in every 100,000, according to the Guillain-Barre/CIDP Syndrome Foundation International. Sufferers experience varying degrees of paralysis of the limbs and breathing muscles.
Wall said Dean currently couldn't use his arms and had only limited use of his legs but that his prognosis was positive; nerves will regenerate and he should regain use of his limbs in perhaps six months.
Wall will move into the new house herself, and Dean will follow as soon as he's released from the hospital. Wall said, thankfully, they planned their new house for their retirement years and made it mostly handicapped accessible, not thinking they would need to employ it so soon.
One thing it lacked was outdoor wheelchair ramps, which technology teachers Jim Bonar of De Soto High School and John Riffel of Lexington Trails Middle School handily constructed in a few hours Saturday morning.
De Soto High School social studies teacher Mike Runyan lent his nursery experience to Friday's field trip, and several football team members helped clean up the Wall's property on Saturday. Music students brought flowers and baked cookies to feed the football players, and various teachers have made food for Wall and her family during Dean's illness.
"I've had unbelievable support from so many different groups," Wall said. "It's just been such a heartwarming experience.
"It's great to live in a small town."