By Ryan Cornell
WOODSTOCK -- Kaia Frana, 13, and Becky Immanuel, 13, put down the heavy bucket they've been carrying to a tree.
Just a matter of minutes earlier, they planted the tree they've affectionately dubbed Landon -- it's a London planetree -- and patted down the soil. They slowly poured about 5 gallons of water from the bucket around Landon's base.
"It's a 4-year-old tree," Kaia said. "So apparently they're very thirsty when they're 4."
Becky laughs. "You know how their teenage mood swings," she quipped.
The two friends, along with eight other students from Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, were planting trees around W.O. Riley Park in Woodstock for the town's fifth annual Big Give event on Saturday. The community service day lets students volunteer at different areas, including helping out at the animal shelter, cleaning up trash from 15 different streets in Woodstock, visiting nursing homes and washing cars to raise money for the fire and rescue department.
More than 130 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students participated in the community service events held between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Angie Clem, assistant town planner and risk manager, was helping students plant trees on Saturday. As a member of the Woodstock Tree Board, she said increasing the tree canopy is important -- eventually, they would like to increase the tree canopy by 8 percent to 30 percent.
The Oklahoma redbuds, maples, crabapples and London planetrees planted on Saturday are continuing off where a row of commemorative trees now stand.
"It will be a really beautiful shaded lane when they grow up," Clem said. "It will be really beautiful and these students are doing awesome, they're doing all the work."
Across town inside the middle school gym, volunteer and parent Mona Frazier was giving blood.
She said she donates blood several times during the year and saw the Big Give as a great opportunity to help out the community.
"I don't mind the needles," she said.
A group of about 11 middle school students played a game of Challengers Baseball with kids with special needs.
Students Shawna McDonald and Lilyin Emmons said it was a lot of fun and said the kids they played with loved it.
Inside the school, three kids were selling foods at the International Foods Fair. For $3 a plate, people could get a big helping of sesame noodles, rice pudding and tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa.
Money raised from the sales will go toward a cultural diversity literacy program to buy books in different languages for the large population of English language learners in the county's central campuses.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org