By Liz Hardaway

Over the course of a two-week period, 20 kids witnessed caterpillars grow their wings.

A few members from the Peace River Butterfly Society and Burnt Store Presbyterian Church reached out to teach the caterpillar-to-butterfly life cycle to the boys at Crossroads Hope Academy.

“The kids were pretty excited about it,” said John Davidson, the executive director of Crossroads.

Crossroads Hope Academy is a nonprofit home and charter school for foster boys “who have had multiple failed placements in the Florida foster care system,” their website states. The home currently has 20 boys between the ages of 12 and 18.

Volunteers visited the campus three times, first to place the caterpillars in a container with food. Some students put their names on the containers, or even named their new science project. Around 10 students participated in caring for the 24 butterflies.

“We talked about the fact that God has a plan for everything and every person,” said Burnt Store Presbyterian Church member Kathy Tardy. “Change is a part of that plan.”

“I forgot to name mine,” student Jordan, 16, said. Davidson requested the Sun only use the boys’ first names.

More than a week later, volunteers helped the students transfer the newly formed chrysalides from the containers to a more airy habitat. “Some of the boys were timid to transfer the chrysalides,” Tardy said.

“I didn’t know that if you touch their wings, it could kill them,” Jordan said.

“They definitely cared,” Tardy said.

The painted lady butterflies hatched earlier than expected, so the students and volunteers released the butterflies last week. Every student, including ones who didn’t initially participate in the set up for the project, witnessed the butterflies being set free.

“We got to learn how to feed them, watch them grow and blossom,” said Nathanial, 17, who is going to college in the fall.

Volunteers plan on planting milkweed and other butterfly attracting plants in the school’s garden.

Not only do volunteers come to Crossroads to teach about animals, but they also help cook in the kitchen, tutor the kids, make Christmas stockings, create Easter baskets and even write the kids birthday cards.

“We’re really proud of the micro-community we’ve created,” Davidson said.

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