FAIRMONT - Sixteen years ago Doug and Gretchen Bancks bought their home on Lake Park Boulevard and began creating the beautiful yard that exists today.
Sprawled out over their lush lawn is a wide array of vegetation, including 15 to 20 varieties of hostas.
"I like foliage and texture," Gretchen said.
Cole and Kierstyn Camp are this year’s ambassadors for the MOSS Garden Party slated for Saturday in Fairmont.
Doug tends to a vegetable garden fenced off in their backyard to keep the critters away, and across the street on the bank leading down to Budd Lake is the beginning of another garden area, planted with native seeds to slow erosion and eliminate the need to mow.
The Bancks' garden is one of nine included in this year's MOSS Garden Party. The tour runs from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. Saturday, with lunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Knights of Columbus Hall.
Each year MOSS organizes the garden party to raise funds for children in the area who are physically or learning challenged. The ambassadors for 2012 are twin siblings Kierstyn and Cole Camp, children of Teresa Camp.
Sitting at a patio set in the Bancks' backyard, the 12-year-old twins are lively and talkative, each in their own way. They were born premature, weighing only 1 pound, 10 ounces each at birth, which resulted in some long-term complications.
Cole is a bright boy, witty and active, with a love of football, baseball, fishing and gardening. He's learning to play trumpet, though he should be practicing more, his mother said, and he's making some extra money this summer mowing neighbors' yards. ADHD makes learning difficult for Cole, but his reading and memory skills are improving with the use of certain programs available on an i-Pad at school, according to his teacher.
Kierstyn, after adjusting to the new surroundings at the Bancks' home, quickly warmed up and began demonstrating her love of music. She chirped and quietly sang to herself, one song after another, interrupting her mother at times to add sound effects to the conversation. In addition to singing in the school choir, Kierstyn also plays piano.
She was born with a detached retina and after several ineffective surgeries to correct the problem, she is now considered blind. Her hearing, however, is exceptional. She can hear a train coming before anyone else can detect it, Teresa said.
"Choo, choo! is what the train says," Kierstyn sang.
Accompanied by a para-professional, Kierstyn spends some time in a regular classroom during the school year and also goes to see a special education teacher. She's working on learning Braille, and several i-Pad programs have helped her learn cause-and-effect and improve her fine motor skills.
"I can't believe how well she's doing," Teresa said. "... I'm happy she turned out as independent and healthy as she is."
When Teresa brought Kierstyn home from the hospital at 6 months, she was like a newborn baby. She started sitting up at age 3 and walking at 4.
"She kind of does things at her own pace," Teresa said.
With proceeds from the MOSS Garden Party, the nonprofit organization plans to purchase i-Pads and programs to further assist the Camp children with their learning when they're away from school.
"The money we've raised, it stays right here with local, needy families," said Lisa Dahl with MOSS. "You can see the benefit go right to someone you probably know."
Tickets for the 2012 MOSS Garden Party are $15 each and available at On the Wall, Hy-Vee, Gartzke's, Dikken Furniture and the Knights of Columbus Hall on the day of the tour. For more information on the tour or on MOSS, call (507) 238-9555.