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'All the senses are used': Bleckley County Elementary School opens new sensory garden for special needs students

Mrs. Riley Troili and Mrs. Tisha Ates dedicated the new sensory garden gazebo to their former student Luke Wilson who died in a car crash in 2020.

BLECKLEY COUNTY, Ga. — Bleckley County Elementary School opened a "sensory garden" that benefits students with special needs. We spoke with the teachers and students about the inspiration for the project and how students helped make it happen.

The garden's name, Luke's Lodge, has a deeper meaning to the teachers who put this project in place.

Mrs. Riley Troili and Mrs. Tisha Ates dedicated the new sensory garden gazebo to their former student Luke Wilson. Luke died last year in a car crash.

"He passed away last year on March 20, two days before his 15th birthday, so we knew that, with this coming up on his birthday, that would be a perfect, perfect time to celebrate it," said Troili.

Luke's family came out for the grand opening of the garden.

The garden features several sensory activities. It took about 7 months to complete the project. 

"We have cabbages, lettuce, and potatoes and strawberries, and we have carrots, and then we have flowers planted throughout the garden. We also have a fountain that was donated to us, so all the senses are used," said Troili.

Troili's husband did the construction with some help from the kids. The teachers say this hands-on environment is great for children with special needs.

"They water the cabbages. They see their own work, they enjoy their own work. They come out and check and see what's going on with the flowers," said Ates.

This project cost around $5,000. Mrs. Troili says most of the money for the garden came from a coffee cart that the students run each week. The garden is open to all students at the school.