It was truly a countdown to "liftoff," as thousands of school children and their families fought an online battle to name the Niagara Hospice butterfly garden centerpiece.
The eight-foot metal butterfly sculpture will now be known as Liftoff, courtesy of Mrs. Kathy Barton's kindergarten class.
Barton's 19 pupils in Starpoint's Fricano Elementary School will be treated to a pizza party and a tour of the garden on Monday. Their school will also receive its own miniature butterfly sculpture, which is expected to become the centerpiece of the school's very own outdoor butterfly garden.
"The teachers got a flier about the contest, and I thought we'd try it. We submitted a whole envelope of names to Hospice. I never expected to be picked," said Barton.
She said her class had an open discussion about names, and what butterflies do, and then went home and talked with parents and brought in name ideas.
"I guess we were thinking about rockets," Barton said of the name Liftoff.
"It was very exciting, and it got the whole school involved. People kept coming by and saying "I voted for you,' " said Barton.
Lockport artist and welding instructor Eric Farrell donated the metal sculpture to Niagara Hospice several years ago. Soon after, the site was developed into a community butterfly garden by local Girl Scouts.
Farrell's 11th-grade welding students at Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services in Medina will team up with the winning kindergarten class to plan the butterfly sculpture for Fricano Elementary.
"We got the idea for the naming as a way to engage the community," said Katherine Lucas Crispo, Niagara Hospice special projects coordinator. "A lot of people think of Hospice as a last resort. It has negative connotations. But we have things for everyone and a lot for families and children. The butterfly garden is a destination in itself and the whole community is welcome."
Crispo said 23 classrooms from a dozen Niagara County schools participated.
"We had hundreds of names to choose from. Some were way out in left field or named after themselves or their teacher. We were so pleased. It was an enthusiastic response," said Crispo.
She said the top six names were chosen by a committee and put online for voting at niagarahospice.org.
Crispo said the online voting involved parents and gave everyone a chance to see what Niagara Hospice offered while viewing the Web site.
Barton said the online voting process made the school feel like a family working on winning the contest together.
"It also was a math lesson. We'd click on the site and get a pie graph and we could see our color - green - getting bigger. Our art teacher used the butterfly to teach the children a lesson on symmetry," said Barton.
She said the class plans to make paper butterflies in class to deliver to Hospice patients when they are honored on Monday, and that classmates look forward to starting their own butterfly garden with the help of Starpoint Girl Scouts.
"It was motivating and fun," Barton said. "It will certainly create a great kindergarten memory."