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Audio-Reader staff, volunteers and supporters held a retirement celebration for Frank Male Sr., 90, on Tuesday morning honoring his remarkable service as lead volunteer for the Sensory Garden at Audio-Reader.
After almost 15 years as the master gardener of the unique sensory garden on the grounds of the Baehr Audio-Reader Center, Male’s dedication, expertise and commitment has grown the beautiful green space into the much-loved destination that it is today.
At the intimate gathering, Audio-Reader staff and volunteers recounted cherished memories of working in the garden, sharing the impact of Male’s work in maintaining a garden designed as an immersive sensory experience for all to enjoy regardless of age or ability.
Audio-Reader’s new director, Feloniz Lovato-Winston, recalled how during her time as Audio-Reader’s development assistant, she and her Audio-Reader colleagues struggled with the challenge of maintaining such a sizable and mature sensory garden. The director at that time assured staff to be patient and that a gardener with the required care, attention to detail and green thumb would arrive to volunteer in the garden. That help thankfully arrived in the form of Frank Male Sr.
For more than 14 years, Male’s leadership in designing and maintaining the sensory garden included working with garden volunteers, conducting tours, preparing for events, and selecting, planting and maintaining all the flowers, plants, herbs and elements that enhance the sensorial experience.
In 2016, Audio-Reader partnered with KU’s School of Design & Architecture’s Dirt Works Studio to replace the garden’s wooden gazebo with a custom-built Sensory Pavilion. Funded by the Austin family and dedicated to the senses, the open-air sensory pavilion is grounded with natural materials, earning the project the Best of Design Award for Student Work from The Architect’s Newspaper.
Male’s contributions as volunteer gardener were honored with memorial bricks to be placed in the garden, framed photos of the Sensory Garden, a wood-carved statue donated by his son, Frank Male Jr., as well as poem written by fellow garden volunteer, Craig Sweets.
Purpose of the Audio-Reader Sensory Garden
The concept of a sensory garden is unique: to provide an outdoor environment that stimulates a variety of senses, making the garden particularly accessible to individuals with visual impairments and other disabilities.
Plantings include those that are very fragrant or have interesting textures. Plants are labeled with special markers that identify the plant in Braille and in print.
How to experience a sensory garden
When you stroll through the Audio-Reader Sensory Garden, you are encouraged to explore the garden with your fingers, your nose, and your ears — to touch, feel, smell and listen. This is a hands-on garden and visitors are encouraged to use several of their senses in order to enjoy all of the delights that the garden has to offer.
Children, adults, and seniors — sighted and sight-impaired — revel in the opportunity to experience this unique garden. In order to activate the fragrance of a plant, you may need to gently rub the leaf between your fingers. This also allows you to experience the unique texture of each plant. Wind chimes, a bubbling rock fountain, song birds, the chiming of the nearby Campanile, and even the sound of the KU marching band wafting from the nearby football stadium provide wonderful sounds to enjoy. Take a moment to sit on one of the garden benches and enjoy the distinctive sounds of the garden.
From all our staff, volunteers, donors and patrons, thank you, Frank, for your years of dedicated service to Audio-Reader and the Sensory Garden!
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