The coming of spring brings with it images of bright flowers and butterflies, as well as the desire for new starts. It is the perfect time, then, for the Alberni Valley Hospice Society to launch a new event. At the end of the month, almost 400 butterflies will take off above the waters at Canal Beach.
The inaugural Butterfly Effect is the first fundraiser for the Society’s annual month of fundraising and awareness during May. Historically, the launch took place with the Hike for Hospice, a community walk around the Kitsuksis Dyke. Although the hike has done well in the past, organizers wanted to open up the kick-off to a wider audience.
“We wanted to make it more of a community event and will have something for everyone,” said Blair Knoedler, AVHS assistant.
The idea came about when staff and volunteers saw a similar event held in Langley last year.
“We thought it would be a better alternative to the hike and get more interest,” Knoedler said.
She was right. When butterfly sales cut off on March 31, Knoedler said the count was more than 380. Released by donors around the same time, the butterflies will make for an impressive display.
Knoedler said originally they would be using monarch butterflies but switched to the painted lady for environmental reasons. Painted ladies do not have the same migrating pattern as monarchs, which make a return trip to and from Mexico.
“I don’t think it would have caused a huge problem, but at worst, they wouldn’t have thrived and migrated to where they need to go,” Knoedler said.
Each butterfly will arrive in a tiny box and will be ready for pick-up at the event site by donors on April 30. Participants are asked to arrive by 11 a.m. and the release will take place following an opening ceremony at noon. It will take the butterflies about two minutes to acclimate before they take off. After that there will be activities until 3 p.m., including events for kids, live music and a food truck.
“It’s going to be a community party,” said Gretchen Carlson, AV Hospice Society executive director.
The Port Alberni swing dancers and Maloomba Boogie Band will liven up the crowd, Blue Fairy Facepaint will be on hand to paint faces for any willing participants, and Alberni District Secondary School will host a table with information on migratory patterns and life cycles of butterflies, as well as which native plants are ideal for supporting butterflies.
Some native plants will also be planted in the shrub garden at Canal Beach, Carlson added.
The community jumped to support the hospice with this new event, said Carlson. Don Ferster of Jim’s Clothes Closet, who has supported hospice events since 2010, purchased $1,500 worth of butterflies (54 in total) that were offered to low income individuals for Saturday’s release.
Ferster has donated more than $6,500 to the Ty Watson House Hospice in the past six years.
“We feel the hospice is a great thing to have in our community for everybody,” Ferster said.
— With files from Susan Quinn, editor