During spring and summer months, residents of Brendan House will have the opportunity to enjoy time outdoors, surrounded by flowers and butterflies.
That’s thanks to a garden created by 16-year-old Michele Corona of Shoreham as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
The Sound Avenue facility is named for Brendan Knight Aykroyd, a Blue Point man who suffered a traumatic brain injury stemming from a 2009 assault and died in his sleep in 2011, at age 25. Having a personal connection to Mr. Aykroyd, Michele knew she wanted her project to benefit those who faced the same challenges he and his family had.
“We knew the struggles the family went through going through the process of it,” Michele said, adding that her mother and Brendan’s mother had worked together in the William Floyd School District. “I wanted to create a place for [the residents] to relax and have some downtime.”
Brendan House, a live-in facility with eight bedrooms for patients, is owned by New Beginnings, a nonprofit outpatient rehab center based in Medford.
An important component of a Gold Award project is making it sustainable for the people or community organization receiving it, Michele said.
To meet this requirement, Michele chose perennial plants for the garden and installed drip hoses so the residents don’t have to water the plants frequently in order to keep the garden going. Instead, it can be a stress-free hobby for them, she said.
Each girl in Michele’s Troop 3878, as well as her mother, created a cement stepping stone with a butterfly made of ceramic pieces. The stones form a pathway that leads to a red bench, which is the focal point of the garden. Michele hopes to add a dedication plaque in the spring.
In order to create the garden, which took over 90 hours of work, Michele sought donations of supplies and materials from various local nurseries and businesses.
She said she planned the garden around the items that were donated, which included flowers, shrubs, the bench and a birdhouse. But she also wanted it to feature one thing in particular: butterflies.
With the goal of developing a natural, calming environment for patients and visitors at Brendan House to enjoy, she began researching the best ways to foster that atmosphere. Her solution was to choose plantings that were known to attract butterflies.
One of the first flowers she planted were black-eyed Susans, which drew butterflies on the first day.
“It was amazing how quickly the butterflies found the plants,” Michele said.
Aptly named the Butterfly Reflection Garden, it will function a “respite spot for the survivors and caregivers,” New Beginnings founder Allyson Scerri said.
Another reason Michele wanted to feature butterflies was because of their connection to Mr. Aykroyd.
“His mom believed when he passed that anytime she saw a butterfly that was his spirit,” said Michele’s mother, Monica Corona. “So the butterfly garden not only fulfilled a personal connection, but also was something that Michele thought would help all of the patients in Brendan House.”
Top courtesy photo: Michele Corona, 16, spent the summer creating a garden at Brendan House as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project.