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Liberty Middle School pumpkin patch gets $5K boost


Mom praises kind manager on blog



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The autism class at Liberty Middle School along with teachers, parents and peer tutors stand in front of the pumpkin garden. ALDO NAHED/Staff. (click for larger version)

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Bobbie Jo Corcoran, a teacher at Liberty Middle School, receives a check for $5,000 from California Pizza Kitchen's Brent Leblanc. (click for larger version)

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California Pizza Kitchen's Brent Leblanc meets Barrett, 13, and his mother, Allie Smith. (click for larger version)
April 30, 2014
CUMMING, Ga. — The autism students at Liberty Middle School just got some much-needed seed money for their pumpkin patch.

California Pizza Kitchen made a $5,000 donation to assist the school with their garden on April 22 – Earth Day.

It all started with a blog post.

During a road trip on Valentine’s Day, Allie Smith and her four children, including Barrett, 13, who has autism, stopped to eat at a California Pizza Kitchen.

Barrett, a sixth-grader in Bobbie Jo Corcoran’s class at Liberty MS, was on the verge of a meltdown in the middle of the crowded restaurant.

But the restaurant’s manager came to her rescue and treated the family “with kindness.”

After Smith wrote about the visit on her blog — TheLatchkeyMom.com and on Huffington Post — someone at the restaurant saw it, and they were delighted with her write-up. The company’s chief executive officer reached out to the family and offered a $5,000 donation to the charity of their choice. Smith chose to give back to other children with autism by donating the funds to Liberty’s garden.

“We enjoy being part of the community,” said Brent Leblanc, a community ambassador for California Pizza Kitchen. “This is an opportunity to reach out. We didn’t mean for this to be a big deal, as we like to give back in small ways.”

For Smith, however, it was a big deal.

“But in our world, it’s huge,” Smith said.

April is also autism awareness month, she said.

The pumpkin garden at the school is being tilled and ready for seeding, said Corcoran. She said the garden’s goal is to teach occupational skills to children with autism at the school. The students will sell the pumpkins this fall.

“The students will get to take pride in something they did,” Corcoran said. “The money will go back into the classroom.”

On May 12, the Liberty Middle School autism class will visit California Pizza Kitchen in Alpharetta to get a tour of the restaurant.

FH 04-30-14

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