MAPLE RIDGE – A group of North Dundas District High School (NDDHS) students recently joined the army of support behind Russell’s Butterfly Boy, Jonathan Pitre, generating more than $600 for his cause.

Pitre, 16, suffers from a rare, extremely severe and painful skin condition called Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa, which causes blisters all over his body that are equivalent to third degree burns.

Last fall, Pitre and his mother, Tina Boileau, travelled to Minnesota to try their luck with a dangerous and agonizing, but potentially life-altering, treatment.

As part of a clinical trial, Pitre received a stem-cell transplant with donor tissue from his mother, and underwent chemotherapy that decimated his immune system and allowed the donated cells to take hold.

NDDHS WEB leaders – who are a part of the school’s “From Me to We” team – launched the local initiative earlier this year to generate funds for the Pitre family, who are facing bills of more than $20,000 per month in order to cover the remaining medical and living expenses.

The students have been researching Pitre’s story for months, and presented it to classrooms all over the school. A dance was also organized, which took place Fri., May 19, with proceeds from the tickets put into the fund.

“The students just went all in,” said teacher Daphne Weyermars, who spearheaded the initiative with the students. “We also decided to incorporate elements of the butterfly disease by releasing Painted Lady butterflies into the wild.”

According to Weyermars, Painted Lady butterflies are found everywhere in the world, except Australia and Antarctica, and represent the resilience shown by Pitre.

Every ticket that was bought entered students into a draw to be the ones who released the Painted Lady butterflies, which web leaders have been raising from caterpillars since the end of April.

About 10 butterflies were released last week just ahead of the dance.