Carly Carver, Editor
The Ashland Beacon
Heather Wells, a school counselor at Ponderosa Elementary School, lives in the quiet subdivision of Briarwood in Ashland, with her fiancé Greg Moore, and her stepchildren Peyton and Mollie Moore.
“We are a small, friendly, close-knit community,” said Wells.
Briarwood is the type of neighborhood with annual yard sales, and huge trick-or-treats, free-libraries, and neighbors helping neighbors daily. The community even connects throughout the day when they are away from the home through a social media group called “Building Briarwood,” which Wells created.
Then COVID-19 hit.
“When COVID-19 hit, isolation protocols were informed, and many schools and businesses began to close,” said Wells.
Schools are out through April 20. Most are working from home. And for now, there is a strong order of social distancing. Even in Briarwood, the neighborhood sprinkling with positivity, there was uncertainty.
“I felt we had to try and do something to brighten up our small community, as well as provide a fun family activity to do while following the governor’s recommendations,” said Wells. “I also have a lot of my students living in our subdivision and knew this would be a wonderful activity for them to use for their NTI counseling activities, as well as provide my services without compromising our health. The bottom line is, I love to spread joy and positivity.”
The activity? A Rainbow Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt. Wells came across the project while scrolling through social media online.
“I just knew Briarwood would be the perfect spot for this,” said Wells. “We have so many people who enjoy walking, running, driving golf carts, and bikes throughout the neighborhood and this was the perfect activity to participate in without compromising our health.”
Wells said that she quickly shared the idea with her neighbors in their online group, “Building Briarwood” and her neighbors responded positively.
“The neighbors started to make their rainbows in the most creative way,” said Wells. “They were sharing their pictures on our Facebook group as they placed them in their windows. The more we discussed it the more people started to wonder why rainbows were popping up everywhere, we’d explain, and they’d show their love and interest too. The amount of rainbows continues to grow. It’s such a beautiful sight to see. I absolutely love the way it brings us together.”
Mary Ware, a resident of Briarwood, said she and her husband Jeff Ware were happy to participate in the activity.
“I think in this time of social distancing this rainbow project has brought our neighborhood closer together,” said Ware. “I love everything about it. What a great motivator to get the children moving, going out and finding the rainbows! So many kids have participated. My husband drew one for our house even though we are grandparents. They are popping up everywhere. There are signs with them by the tree stump that Briarwood decorates, there is chalk art in the driveways, and they are in the windows everywhere in Briarwood. Honestly, I miss seeing my grandchildren. Social distancing is hard. If we can help entertain someone else’s child or grandchild then we are in!”
Wells said she feels it’s imperative for neighbors to come together during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Through this project, you feel supported and part of something more,” said Wells. “We’ve been able to open up to one another and build stronger relationships while also abiding by social distancing regulations.”
Joni Shavers Copley, a resident of Briarwood, said that her and her son have had so much fun with the project.
“The scavenger hunt got us busy making rainbows and excited to brighten other people’s days just a little when they found ours,” said Copley. “Then it gave us something to look forward to when we got outside looking in the craziest places. We went everyday looking for them and we ended up finding more and more each day. It also got us all talking from a safe distance about our rainbows and what great ideas. It’s important that we still get out of our homes and socialize at a safe distance. We want to teach our kids, even in a crisis, to be a good neighbor and help where we can, even if it’s just a rainbow in the window to brighten someone’s day.”
Wells said that activities like this are specifically important for children, who have the hardest time of all navigating through uncertainty.
“Their inability to communicate their feelings, anxieties, or concerns during this can take a toll on their mental health,” said Wells. “Brighten their days with a different type of learning and play. Create lasting memories with family through special games, activities, cuddles, and endless love. My wish for all is to deflect the negative that may cause trauma to our kiddos and bring light to the positive and good that can come from this. We are all trying to determine which way to go in unchartered territory, let’s at least make things colorful!”