High school senior Kendra Kaericher had quite an audience today as she released hundreds of beautiful butterflies into a new garden she constructed at Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children.
Little children too sick to come outside peaked from their windows, while dozens of doctors and staff at the hospital joined Kaericher as she carefully unzipped five drums of butterflies in the center of an extraordinary garden. The butterflies gracefully hovered and flit around the stepping stones and bubbling watering fountain that Kaericher says attract the colorful insects.
The design and creation of the hospital’s new butterfly garden stemmed from a special award Kaericher received last year at school that came with a $2,500 grant she could use toward a project to improve her community.
Kaericher, who lives in Kennett Square, was nominated in February for the Sokoloff Prize for Compassion and Kindness by her peers and faculty at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.
As she considered what to do, Kaericher thought about her upcoming summer internship with the patient experience team at A.I. duPont Hospital, and she wondered if she could brighten the days of children and families there.
Her grandmother Priscilla Roberts also served as inspiration for her project. “I was thinking about what I could do and I was thinking about my grandmother, because she’s been with me forever, and we loved gardening and butterflies ever since I was a small child. So I thought about the children and thought maybe I could build a garden for them so they could see nature and the butterflies, just like I do with my grandmother.”
Kaericher says that the hospital was thrilled when she reached out to them about her idea. “We see this garden as a way to therapeutically engage children who frankly come to us under stresssful circumstances,” said Lauren Casarino, a patient experience manager at A.I. duPont Hospital. “Whether the children enjoy looking at the garden from the comfort of their own room or come outside to see the butterflies, this will be an incredibly positive experience for them.”
Administrators suggested that the student partner with their landscape design firm BrightView, and the hospital also contributed funds toward the project. Her original design did not include hardscape or a fountain. “The grant covered many of the plants and the mulch and the purchase of the butterflies and their habitats. But I couldn’t do all of this for $2,500.”
The project has been quite an undertaking for the high schooler, who purchased, fed and took care of 216 baby butterflies in her home until she released them at the hospital today. Her grandmother stopped by the house almost every day to help.
“That was a ton of work and took a lot of time. We purchased them as very small caterpillars, and fed them a mix of sugar water, watermelon, and oranges. Then once they grew into their chrysalis we moved them to the velcro in a large cage that we bought and waited for them to hatch,” she said.
Today many of the Painted Ladies butterflies seemed content to stay in their netted home nibbling on orange slices. But over the course of about a half an hour, each one rose up and out of its cage. And many landed on the plants Kaericher planted on Monday.
Kaericher and the landscape designer at BrightView picked a mix of plants including Purple Cone Flowers, Blue Mist Spirea, Milkweed, Black-Eyed Susans, junipers and of course Butterfly Bushes. Kaericher says all of the plants are hardy and low maintenance, which should last season after season.
Kaericher would like to study Biology in college and she hopes to be a doctor one day, hopefully working with children. For now, she plans to come back to the hospital as often as she can. “I love that I can go back to Nemours and see the garden that I was a part of and see how it grows and see how children like it.”