Short documentary film tells powerful story of nature and resilience in Joplin, Missouri

JOPLIN, Mo., May 22, 2017 — Today, on the anniversary of the Joplin tornado that cut a path of destruction through the city in 2011, a short documentary film telling a story of how nature has played a key role in the city’s recovery, is being released.

Landscapes of Resilience Butterfly Garden and Overlook, Joplin, Mo.

The film, titled Butterfly Angels, shines a light on an effort that drew together an eclectic and passionate team of people, many from Joplin and the surrounding area; others from a thousand miles away. Together, they focused on conceptualizing and creating a green space, a healing garden, for the purpose of helping the people of Joplin deal with the enormous trauma inflicted by the tornado.

“The devastation that Joplin experienced was beyond what most of us can fully imagine,” said Alden Stoner, the producer and co-director behind Butterfly Angels. “When we think of disaster recovery, most of us envision the rebuilding process — the reconstruction of homes, businesses — but in truth, it’s about something much deeper.”

Among the voices heard in the film are that of former mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean; Chris Cotten, head of Joplin’s Parks and Recreation Department; co-lead designers on the project, Traci Sooter and Nancy Chikaraishi, both of Drury University; and Cornell University’s Keith Tidball, who has long studied how nature can be a source of resilience for communities.

The healing garden, called Landscapes of Resilience Butterfly Garden and Overlook, is situated in the city’s historic Cunningham Park, and opened to the public in May 2014.

“The idea that nature can help people manage stress, and even cope with acute trauma situations, is one that is gaining traction outside of the research community,” Stoner said. “Seeing and hearing how it has mattered in Joplin is powerful proof.”

The film was produced by Stoneworth Studios in partnership with the TKF Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to enabling more opportunities for people to experience the healing and restorative benefits of nature. The Foundation was a major funder of the Garden, which is also serving as a research site for Tidball and a team of fellow researchers from Drury University and the USDA National Forest Service. The team is seeking to learn more about the benefits of specific aspects of these types of green spaces.

View the film at


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