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[whitespace] Vandals rip rock garden stones from Booksin, but not for long

Willow Glen--Today, 5-year-old Gianna Maietta skips over the hand-crafted stepping stones at Booksin Elementary. Each of the school's 140 kindergartners made one. Along with names traced in cement by small fingers, the stones hold toys, keys, money, shells and precious stones embedded in concrete.

Yesterday, however, the sight of her handmade stone, which had been ripped out of the ground and thrown under the bushes, made Gianna cry. "I felt sad, and I cried a little," she says in a tiny voice.

Sometime during the night on June 15, vandals tore out all of the cement blocks at the school, ripping out flowers that the kindergartners, their parents and teachers had labored over.

"It breaks my heart," says Carrie Maietta, Gianna's mom.

The site of her daughter crying for her stepping-stone and furiously trying to replant a yellow wildflower was too much. So Carrie Maietta spent all day June 16 replanting the flowers and replacing the stepping stones.

"It just hurt," she says. "I didn't want to see it left like that."

Maietta had originally spearheaded the three-week-long beautification project, recruiting parent volunteers to loosen the dirt, mix cement, and help six and a half classes of kindergartners create their mini-masterpieces.

Each youngster brought tiny treasures from home, ranging form small stuffed animals to jewelry and toys, to place in their stone.

Six-year-old Cameron Hettema shows off his stepping stone. He has drawn a bat in the cement, and blue glass marbles form the outline.

"It was such a big job for the kids, they spent so much time and effort on it," says Cameron's mom, Becky Hettema, who did the initial pitch-forking to loosen the soil. "What was to gain form the vandalism?"

School officials can't even answer that one. There aren't any suspects.

And parents are worried it may happen again. That's part of what prompted Carrie to replace the stepping blocks so quickly. The parents also plan to install a surveillance camera immediately.

"These are children here, a bunch a five- and six-year-olds who put a lot of time into something, and have so much pride in their work," says Kindergarten parent Mark Rodocker. "Why just tear them up?"

Mark's daughter, Natasha, bounces over her cement block, with a handprint in the middle and colored rocks from her fish bowl along the border. Tag, she's it, and she's off and running, jumping from stone to stone after classmate Gianna.

Gianna points to her stone--it holds a necklace, rhinestone earrings, a toy horse and glitter. Then she reads the words from a gold pin embedded in the cement: "Together we're better."
Jessica Lyons

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