WESTFIELD, NJ — Eight of the 30 fiberglass butterflies that comprise the town’s inaugural Public Arts Commission exhibit “Art Takes Flight” have been sponsored by the Madeleine Sanford Memorial Fund, named for town resident Maddie Sanford who lost her battle with pediatric brain cancer in March 2019 at age 18.
“Maddie was born, raised and went to school in Westfield,” said Maddie’s father Tom Sanford. “During her illness and after her passing, the people of Westfield were extraordinarily kind and generous to our family. We have looked for ways of saying thank you and giving back.”
Maddie’s family reached out to Ward 4 Councilwoman Dawn Mackey to discuss how they might do this. Mackey had organized a town sendoff for Maddie’s Make-A-Wish trip to the Galapagos Islands, knew Maddie and felt she had been a part of the family’s journey.
“Somewhere in our conversation, we discussed the butterfly project,” said Mackey. “And I thought, ‘oh my goodness. I think Maddie would have loved this.’ We selected butterflies that we felt were representative of her spirit.”
“Last summer and fall, I had been seeing butterflies everywhere — many more than I had ever noticed before,” said Maddie’s mother, Alexandra Sanford. “I just had such a strong feeling that they were a sign from Maddie, so when Dawn mentioned butterflies, I thought that this was all just meant to be.”
The Madeleine Sanford Memorial Fund was a significant sponsor of the butterfly project. While the majority of the butterflies will be auctioned in September to fund future public art projects in town, a small collection dedicated to Maddie’s memory will become a permanent part of the children’s playground at Mindowaskin Park. A dedication is planned for late September or early October.
“I think she would be really thrilled,” said Alexandra Sanford. “She was passionate about the Westfield community, and would love seeing something that is so impactful. Because Maddie was creative and artistic, and cared deeply about the environment, this is especially meaningful.”
In addition to Westfield butterfly project, The Madeleine Sanford Fund has made donations to Make-A-Wish New Jersey, the Ronald McDonald House at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Aloha Foundation, which will fund a campership in perpetuity at the camp where Maddie spent a number of happy summers.
“Across all of these things, we’re looking to try to see some good and do things that we feel would make Maddie proud of us,” said Tom Sanford.