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COLUMBUS — This fundraiser really took flight.

On Saturday, 500 painted lady butterflies were released in Frankfort Square. The orange- and black-winged butterflies spread their wings and flew during an event held by the Columbus Community Hospital Auxiliary.

The release was this year’s auxiliary extravaganza, an annual event that raises money to help purchase equipment for the hospital.

Traditionally, the extravaganza has been a more formal affair with a dinner. This time organizers went a more family-friendly route and sold butterflies for $15 to raise money to buy a baby warmer for the hospital.

Shirley Hroza, auxiliary president, said changing up the extravaganza after 28 years caused her to have a few butterflies in her stomach hoping that it would be a success. It proved to be a winner with $16,000 raised through the sale and other donations, which was the goal.

People who ordered butterflies gathered in the park and were handed small envelopes containing a single butterfly. The butterflies were ordered from Florida after getting a permit from the USDA. They arrived packed in a cooler so they were dormant.

When it was time for the release, the envelopes were opened and the butterflies were freed. The painted lady variety resembles a Monarch butterfly but is considered more sociable. That made it a fun experience for some as the colorful insects clung to their hands and shirts for a while before taking off.

Virginia Martin, chairwoman for the extravaganza, said she was amazed by the popularity of the event and was happy the auxiliary was able to meet its goal.

The auxiliary has provided funds to make purchases of several pieces of equipment for the hospital since 1972. In the past, the money raised was used to get a bladder scanner for the emergency room, an automated external defibrillator, a portable bone density machine and a glucose monitoring system. Overall, the auxiliary has raised $1.3 million.

Aside from the extravaganza, the group also holds sales of books, baked goods and jewelry to raise funds. The proceeds from the hospital’s gift shop also goes to the auxiliary.

The theme for the butterfly release was “Celebrating Life.” As part of that, a “wall of butterflies” was hung up in the park. If a butterfly was purchased in memory of someone, that person’s name was posted on the wall.

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