Tuesday afternoon, patients and their families, along with the medical staff of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, gathered in the new Healing Butterfly Garden to witness the release of Monarch and Painted Lady butterflies.

The garden, which reflects the environment of Ann Arbor, integrates raising butterflies with patient care. The project is the first garden in the world to do so.

Brendon Weil, a staff specialist at UMHS, and Susan Fisher, the radiology grants coordinator, worked together on the project.

Fisher said she thought the plan was unrealistic and wouldn’t receive funding. But in the end, backing came through and the garden was built.

“We had no idea that this many people would be here and that’s the coolest part,” Fisher said after seeing the full courtyard at the event.

Fisher added that throughout the last several years, she has brought caterpillars from her own home garden to cancer patients at the University hospital.

“It’s magical to have something from nature transform right in front of you,” Fisher said.

Dan Fischer, the director of the Child and Family Life department, helped with the integration of the patient care portion of this project.

Fischer said the committee tried to incorporate fun activities for children in the hospital to serve as a distraction therapy.

“My mission is to help kids develop coping techniques for being sick in the hospital,” Fischer said. “I think we try to create a little fun and normalcy out of an experience that really isn’t any of those things.”

The opening of the gardens also marked the beginning of the Child and Family Life Butterfly Explorer Summer Program, for which Fischer’s committee was responsible.

Through the program, children in the hospital can check out backpacks that have all the materials necessary for a garden scavenger hunt, such as magnifying glasses and pictures of different plants.

The program also includes butterfly arts and crafts sessions every Tuesday for children who are not able to go out into the garden.

Weil said all of the garden activities are themed around the butterfly life cycle.

“It’s like a patient diagnosed with cancer who thinks the world is over,” Weil said. “That individual, whether they’re a child or adult, goes through a whole metamorphosis. They come out on the other side just as beautiful as they were as when they went into it.”

Pointing to a boy holding a monarch on his finger, Weil said, “It’s that kind of thing that’s so remarkable and amazing.”

Gabe Porter contributed reporting

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