Reaching for the Gold Award

Reaching for the Gold Award

Girl Scout organizes road race

CUMBERLAND - She thinks it's important for people to know that 127,000 pounds of food has been raised at Franklin Farm and donated to the Rhode Island Food Bank and food pantries throughout the state.

Kerry Connolly also believes that people should know that the farm is run by volunteers and that there are gardening and farming classes taught there.

An avid runner and one of the captains on this year's Cumberland High School cross country team, the 17-year-old daughter of Brian and Kathleen Connolly is also a Girl Scout Gold Award candidate, and as such, must complete a range of community service projects.

She came up with the idea of blending the historic Franklin Farm on Abbott Run Valley Road with her running passion and has organized a 5K road race/walk. It will take place on Saturday, Aug. 31, beginning and ending at Franklin Farm.

The idea came to her when Denise Mudge, president of the Historic Metcalf-Franklin Farm Preservation Association, gave a presentation to Connolly's Girl Scout Troop 437.

"After Mrs. Mudge gave her presentation, I knew that I wanted to incorporate Franklin Farm in some way into my community service project," said Connolly. "A lot of my teammates talk about running past the farm during their workouts, so I thought it would be a good fit."

The race will begin at the farm and meander through the rural roads of northern Cumberland, looping around and returning to the farm. There will be a police detail for safety, and there will be informational booths set up at the farm.

There is no cost to participate.

"One of the Girl Scout rules is that you cannot raise money for any outside organization," said Connolly. "So, yeah, I can sell you a $4 box of cookies, but I can't charge anything for the race to help raise money for the farm."

Members of Connolly's Girl Scout troop and her cross country teammates have volunteered to assist, painting signs and marking the race's path, and they will help with water stops and with registering participants.

The 65-acre farm is town-owned and is used for community gardening. Volunteers pick vegetables grown there and haul them away to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and several food pantries.

The farm also has a small roadside stand where excess fresh veggies are placed. Visitors can just drive up to the stand, select what vegetables they want, and make a donation. There is a suggested price list posted.

"It's an honor system," said Mudge. "We've gotten letters in the collection box from people who have taken items without paying, saying they are homeless and needed the food. Many say they will come back to pay once they get back on their feet. Then there are people who leave generous donations, so it all evens out and we're accomplishing the goal of feeding people."

Prior to the town acquiring the farm, it had two owners, the Metcalf and Franklin families, dating back to the 1700s.

Through the spring, volunteers prepare fields and then plant vegetables, and through the summer, they tend to the crops, weeding and watering as necessary.

The farm also hosts summer camps for children, teaching them about farming and gardening and culminating with the children planting their very own parcel.

Mudge said that Connolly has done an impressive job organizing the road race.

"At her age, she is an exceptional person, and if her life develops the same way, she will be amazing," said Mudge.

Connolly said she hopes that the race will have a lasting effect and becomes an annual event, and said promotional signs that she and her friends are designing will be donated to the farm at the race's conclusion.