Ridgefield moms, volunteers transform Ridgebury Elementary School courtyard into beautified space

RIDGEFIELD — For years, Ridgebury Elementary School’s courtyard was what Jen D’amico described as “an unusable mess.” 

But thanks to a pair of Ridgefield mothers, students and other community members, the courtyard underwent a significant face-lift in time for the start of the 2022-23 school year.  Over four years, the volunteers removed trees and weeds before beautifying the space with up-cycled flowers, picnic tables and art projects. 

“I’m kind of impressed,” said D’amico, whose children attend the school. “We actually did it and showed the kids you can do anything when you put your mind to it. We had a lot of laughs, a lot of fun, a lot of problem-solving.”

She and Ridgefield mother Elizabeth Long started working on the project independently in 2018 and became friends. 

“We didn’t really know exactly how necessarily difficult it would be or how many other people wanted to be involved,” Long said.

Nevertheless, they made headway with help from Ridgebury Elementary School students, the Ridgebury Elementary Parent Teacher Association, Girl Scout Troop 50585 ( D’amico’s daughter Alia’s troop) and other Ridgefield parents and community members. As well as raising money for materials, Long said Troop 50585 donated flowers, a planter and many hours of work to the project. 

Long said they pulled out weeds by hand in areas that were completely overgrown, while five trees had to be cut down. 

Just as they were making good progress, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, putting a temporary stop to their ambitions.

When they were finally able to get back into the school last year, Long said she and D’amico returned to the project with a renewed focus, planting grass and pulling out the rest of the trees by hand because machinery couldn’t fit into the entrance way. 

Instead of a flower garden that would require additional maintenance, the mothers decided to create a garden of up-cycled flowers constructed from pans, light fixtures, fans, cooking pots, flower pots and other materials. 

Along with using the boards from her old deck to make the up-cycling flower stems, Long said they made leaves from a putting green donated by the “Buy Nothing” Facebook group. The Ridgebury Elementary School PTA donated money for materials. 

Long said they received many donations from Ridgefield residents via the “Buy Nothing” Facebook page, the local thrift shop and a variety of Ridgebury Elementary School parents. 

Among their contributions, Girl Scout Troop 50585 raised money to purchase picnic tables for the courtyard, while Girl Scout Troop 50184 – where D’amico’s middle daughter Annaliese D’amico and Long’s daughter Evelyn Klimowicz are members – decorated Kindness Rocks. 

D’amico’s daughter Alexandra’s Girl Scout Troop 50174 helped with weeding, planting and art projects like painting Kindness Rocks, mushrooms and toadstools.

By September, the courtyard was finished, complete with a “Welcome Back” sign. Long said they plan on decorating the courtyard for the holidays. 

“From my perspective, I always tell my kids you get back what you put out in the world,” she said. “I feel this is a project I was able to model for them.”

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Annaliese D’amico's first name.