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Grant adding gardens, programs to Hopkins Park

DeKALB – Julie Eggleston thinks therapeutic recreation is the coolest field of study, and she hopes a state grant spreads that interest to three youths.

The Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association, which provides residents who have disabilities with recreational programs, received a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to employ three youths or young adults for the summer.

The $11,700 grant will pay Nicoletta Knoble, 20, of Lisle, Stefany Veldhuizen, 17, of Sycamore, and Amanda Poyer, 16, of Sugar Grove, to create curriculum and work on gardening projects until the middle of August. The project also serves as an opportunity to teach the three about being in a work environment.

"We're giving these wonderful youths work experience," said Eggleston, Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association executive director. "They'll have end products to share and it expands their knowledge."

The three were chosen because of past experience or connections to Eggleston. Eggleston said this grant is unique because it pays specifically for wages, which is generally difficult to find within grants. The DeKalb Park District has been collaborating with the group this summer to fund material and supply costs.

"I felt that these girls would be amazing," Eggleston said. "I don't think we could have picked a better team."

The team has been creating curriculum about gardening that can easily be applied to badge work for Girl and Boy Scout groups. They have also been teaching lessons during Camp Maple Leaf, which offers children with or without disabilities a summer camp experience.

"I actually want to go to work," Poyer said. "It's fun to work with kids and be pushed out of our comfort zones to be leaders."

They have also created a butterfly garden at Hopkins Park and are working on a handicapped-accessible sensory garden on a raised bed for the park, which will feature plants perfect for smelling and touching, such as lavender. Poyer said the sensory garden is important because everyone can be engaged in it and have access to enjoy it.

"We're having a good time and doing something meaningful," Knoble said. "We work together as a team and learn how to work with other people."

To learn more

For more information about the Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association, visit

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