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News and Headlines: Leah Polacek Butterfly Garden To Open At CWU

Leah Polacek Butterfly Garden To Open At CWU

May 31, 2006

ELLENSBURG, Wash. - What will be one of the only open-air butterfly gardens on a college campus anywhere in the world will be dedicated at Central Washington University on Friday, June 2, at 10 a.m. So says Nan Doolittle, CWU art and family and consumer sciences instructor.

The garden is her brainchild. Sadly, it was a brainchild born out of tragedy -- the death, two-years ago from bile duct cancer, of her then 31-year-old daughter. The garden will be named the "Leah Polacek Butterfly Garden" in her honor. It will be located adjacent to Mitchell Hall on the southeast side of the Ellensburg campus.

Polacek graduated in 1995 from CWU with a degree in education and special education endorsement. She went on to teach preschool and elementary special education classes in Deer Park, Wash. She also worked with Kittitas County Head Start/ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program).

Before her death, Polacek established the "Hawaiian Cowboys," a "Relay for Life" team benefiting the American Cancer Society. In 2005, it became a non-profit organization, benefiting charities countywide and nationwide.

Members of the CWU grounds crew and the Hawaiian Cowboys worked in conjunction planting shrubbery, comprised of vegetation native to Kittitas County and central Washington, for the butterfly garden. The Hawaiian Cowboys will maintain it in the future.

The garden will be an educational resource in that it will feature interpretive signs following the life cycle of the butterfly from egg to adult, while also designed to be a place of beauty and solitude for CWU students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus.

It will also be available for butterfly releases, to honor those who have passed on and for celebrations of achievements and rites of passage, according to Doolittle, pointing out that the butterfly is a symbol of transformation, freedom and "exquisite wonder."

At the garden's dedication, students from Ellensburg's Mt. Stuart Elementary School will release butterflies they have raised to be the first inhabitants of the garden. It's hoped that other wild butterflies will also soon call the garden home.

Polacek's husband, Matt, and her two children, who live in Ellensburg, will attend the garden dedication.

View a large version of the cover shot HERE.

Contact: Nan Doolittle (509-963-2080/fax 509-963-787/e-mail:

Public Relations and Marketing: (509) 963-1493

Central Washington University is a master's degree-granting institution with approximately 10,000 students and 1,500 faculty and staff. More than 160 undergraduate and master's degrees are offered. Founded in 1891, the Ellensburg campus is located in the heart of Washington State, nestled between the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River. Since 1975, CWU has served the needs of placebound students at six university centers throughout the state. CWU is an AA/EEO Title IX Institution.

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