BIDDEFORD – On a shady, wooded trail, about a half-dozen volunteers painted vibrant primary colors on a series of platforms for a new nature trail that will be used by young children at the Northern York County YMCA.

The “Born Learning Trail” was one of many projects that some 50 volunteers tackled Wednesday at the YMCA during the United Way of York County’s 16th annual Day of Caring.

Across the county, more than 1,000 volunteers worked on more than 90 projects. Organizers say their help has become a special resource for local nonprofits in need of major improvements.

Many of the small organizations don’t have money in their budgets for such projects, said Brenna Widdis, who manages the United Way volunteers.

Widdis said it’s also a day for many people to get involved even if they have a limited skill set.

“Some people can’t do much more than paint. Some people are skilled woodsmen,” she said.

Sue Burgess of Saco was part of the group working on the “Born Learning Trail.” After the platforms were painted and the quarter-mile trail cleared, the crew arranged 10 activity stations along the route.

She said her company, Unum, encourages employees to be involved in the community.

“We are lucky we have such a nice community to live in, and there are folks who need our help,” said Burgess. “I’m just giving back.”

The “Born Learning Trail,” designed for children up to age 5, is the first of its kind in York County, according to YMCA Executive Director Becky Harkema. The short trail behind the YMCA will allow preschoolers to take a short hike, read signs and complete activities that make the nature walk interactive.

One sign says that playing and exploring helps young children “get ready for success in school and in life.” Other signs instruct, encouraging children to observe their environment, for example, or promote physical activity by providing opportunities for games such as hopscotch.

YMCA spokeswoman Kristine Allard said the trail serves the organization’s core values of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

“We (the YMCA) serve the community,” Allard said. “So to see the community come back and give back, it’s a great feeling.” 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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