With spring in full swing, the monarch butterflies have come and gone through San Luis Obispo on their annual journey down the California coast. However, there are still a few special butterflies hidden on campus waiting to be found, courtesy of the Cal Poly Butterfly Effect Club.
The Butterfly Effect is a national nonprofit organization that communication studies freshman Sarah Ruhe wanted to bring from her hometown of San Diego to Cal Poly. Local artists paint wooden butterflies, which are then hidden or “dropped” around campus once a month. Whoever finds the butterfly first has the opportunity to donate $250 to any charity of their choice, funded by founder and philanthropist Tasha Wahl.
“Not often in life are we handed this golden ticket like in Willy Wonka,” Ruhe said. “Here, you get this opportunity to do something amazing for no cost on your part and no extra work or effort.”
One day before a typical “drop,” Ruhe posts information on the artist and drop time on Instagram. After that, Ruhe or someone else on her team posts three separate photos in half-hour increments with three separate hints.
“Let’s say we’re hiding the butterfly at 12,” Ruhe said. “I post the first picture at 12 with the first hint, [at] 12:30 post the second picture [and] second hint, and then at 1 the third picture and the last hint. And the farthest one away definitely shows the location of where the butterfly is.”
Ruhe said she hopes the Butterfly Effect helps students realize the impacts they can make on their community.
“When people get this opportunity, it kind of opens their eyes up to giving and being a more philanthropic citizen and Cal Poly student,” Ruhe said.
The most recent butterfly was found by political science freshman Austin McLellan, who has been following the Butterfly Effect since the beginning of the academic year.
“I turned on their post notifications actually,” McLellan said. “I was actually walking through the UU (University Union) when they dropped the second hint, which really revealed where it was, and I almost sprinted over to find it.”
For McLellan, this was more than an opportunity to donate to any charity.
“Two years ago, around this time in April, I lost my Grandmother due to complications from Alzheimer’s,” McLellan said. “It was seeing what that kind of disease does to a person’s brain and what it does to their physical ability and to those that love them and support them. I knew from the start that was where I was going to donate the money to.”
McLellan said he found the butterfly “maybe a week” after the two-year anniversary of his grandmother’s passing. He immediately called his grandfather to share the news with him.
“It’s a bright spot in what can sometimes be a hectic and sad world,” McLellan said. “I thank them for making my week that much brighter — probably my grandfather’s month that much brighter.”