Flying Free

Roux Sanders spreads the wings of her butterfly costume with Michel and Ellen Shane before the release of 1,000 butterflies at Malibu Bluffs Park on Sunday.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s … 1,000 butterflies, taking off from Malibu Bluffs Park on a warm, sunny Sunday in Malibu.

Ellen and Michel Shane — a local couple who lost their daughter in 2010 when she was killed while walking on Pacific Coast Highway at the age of 13 — gathered with a couple hundred of residents and visitors, family and friends to release 1,000 butterflies to raise funds for The Emily Shane Foundation. The foundation was created in honor of their late daughter, who would have been 18 this year.

“If you look at The Emily Shane Foundation logo, a butterfly is our symbol,” Ellen explained. “Butterflies are significant to the foundation because they represent transformation.”

The Shanes were seeking a $10 sponsorship for each of the butterflies. Funds raised will go toward the foundation’s Successful Education Achievement (SEA) Program, which pairs college students with at-risk students throughout Los Angeles for tutoring and mentorship.

“We had a butterfly campaign leading up to the release … so some people sponsored one, and some people sponsored 50,” Ellen shared. “It went all over the map and people gave what they could.” Funds raised by the sponsorship of one butterfly will provide one hour of mentoring to a student.

“With our SEA Program … we are aiming to transform these kids who are having a real difficult time academically,” Ellen said. 

In a guest editorial in the April 22 edition of The Malibu Times, Michel said, “These smart, bright children who are struggling because they learn different just need a helping hand to make the change to feeling good about themselves because, ultimately, success is about believing in oneself.”

The program works to help steer children onto a path of academic success with mentoring, tutoring and the “Pass it Forward” campaign, which encourages students in the program, as well as members of the community, to do a good deed in hopes that others will return the favor and more good deeds will be done.

“The actual idea for the release came from AJ Steinberg — a local event planner who does work with nonprofits,” Ellen said. “She’s the one who helped us put this together, which was perfect because it tied in so well with our foundation.”

The butterflies, which were all painted lady butterflies, were described by Ellen as similar looking to monarch butterflies. They came in boxes of 100, or in individual envelopes.

“I think we had at least 100 individual [butterflies] so that children could each let their own out,” Ellen shared.

She said that the release was “magical” and “really, really wonderful.” Before taking off, some of the butterflies landed on people at the event. 

“I had the one box, they just all went up into the sky and it was really beautiful to behold,” Ellen shared.

In addition to the release, festivities for the day included butterfly tattoos, coloring with crayons and an educational booth set up by local Wendi Dunn to share the benefits of butterflies with the community. Dunn brought milkweed and, according to Ellen, explained that monarch butterflies are attracted to milkweed and it is good for the local environment.

“[Wendi was] educating people about planting milkweed and the important role butterflies play,” Ellen said. “It tied in perfectly with our butterfly campaign.”

Ellen explained that one of her favorite parts of the release was that there was no fee for admission, so a diverse crowd gathered at the park.

“There were young, old people — every age was there. Families came, older people came, it was really nice to see people from all over come and participate.”

The Emily Shane Foundation tries to plan about two fundraisers per year, with the next one around April of 2016.