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Henry's Butterfly: Wyoming father creates autism awareness statue honoring son

'Henry's Butterfly' statue waiting to be transported to the Sheridan YMCA
Posted at 8:18 PM, Apr 24, 2024

SHERIDAN, WYOMING — April is World Autism Month. Before it ends, a Sheridan, Wyoming, father is doing something special to spread awareness.

'Henry's Butterfly' is a statue that is the embodiment of a father’s love—handcrafted with care to be donated to the Sheridan YMCA.

'Henry's Butterfly' statue waiting to be transported to the Sheridan YMCA
'Henry's Butterfly' statue waiting to be transported to the Sheridan YMCA

When it comes to awareness and accessibility, Sheridan is taking steps toward improvement, according to Nick Wright, a father of three boys, including one with autism.

"Sheridan is coming around," Wright said on Wednesday. "There's Sensational Kids that offers different therapy. There's a new autism organization in Sheridan, it's called 'Reach.'

This is great news for parents like Nick and his wife, Alisha, whose 10-year-old son, Henry, is autistic.

The Wright Family
The Wright Family

"Henry is very, very sweet. He's got a very mechanical mind. He loves to understand the way things work and likes to see the end result,” Wright said. "He loves Legos. His room is loaded with Legos that he's built. And it's so weird, I don't know if it's a photographic memory thing or what it is. But I can go in and move one just a little bitty bit. And he'll walk into his room and he instantly knows it."

Wright recently had an idea, sparked by a visit to the Sheridan YMCA.

"I was sitting, waiting on my kids at swim lessons at the Y. Talking to an employee, and they let me know that they are in the process of building a sensory room for autistic kids. And I was very thankful for that,” said Wright. "So I talked to Liz Cassiday, the director."

Sheridan County YMCA
Sheridan County YMCA

He knew he had to see his idea through to honor kids like Henry and spread autism awareness.

"I had a CAD (computer-aided design) drawing of it. I said, 'I want to build this, give it to you just to bring awareness.' And she said, ‘We want it,’” Wright said. "So I've got it finished now. And the unveiling is tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. Hope everybody makes it."

Nick Wright
Nick Wright

Wright co-owns LJ Wright Ironworks and Design, located at 5407 Coffeen Ave., and got to work designing a statue incorporating a colorful butterfly and puzzle piece, two common symbols of autism awareness.

"(I'm excited for) getting it outside, watching kids walk around it, see their skin change color, lay down underneath it. I want their parents to take pictures. Just have Henry smile. He talks about it constantly. I know we're going to have to drive by every day to check on it,” said Wright.

Close up of one of the wings
Close up of one of the wings

Wright said others jumped in to help with the project, with Imperial Powder Coating and Total Concrete Works donating 100% of labor and materials for the powder coating and concrete slab the statue will be placed on.

"Special shout-out to Imperial Powder Coating for getting on board with me and Total Concrete for getting on board as well," Wright said. "It's just a community coming together, realizing that it's an important message. It means a lot."

Henry and his brothers assisted their dad with the project during their spring break. They often help out with projects.

"(My boys are) creative. I bring them in here every once in a while," Wright explained. "(We also) started building things for Teacher Appreciation Week several years ago. And it's not the typical chocolate or flowers. It's something that we've made."

Henry and his brother, Charlie, in front of the butterfly
Henry and his brother, Charlie, in front of the butterfly

The plaque pictured below was the final finishing detail, quoting Henry with one of his favorite sayings: "I got this."

Plaque on 'Henry's Butterfly'
Plaque on 'Henry's Butterfly'

"I've had lots of customers come in crying when they left about how it's touched them,” said Wright. "(I want to give a) special shout out to Highland Park Elementary School. They have gone far and above expectations for all of my kids. Adjusting curriculum schedules to get the most out of Henry. Teachers reading books and educating themselves on autism on their own time."

Now that 'Henry's Butterfly' is complete, a special dedication ceremony will take place on Thursday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sheridan YMCA, located at 417 N. Jefferson St.

YMCA poster about the event
YMCA poster about the event

"I hope this is a symbol for many years to come. And I think everybody, after they read the plaque, could take something away from it. It's not specific to autism, really," Wright said. "It's very powerful.”

To learn more about LJ Ironworks and Design, click here.