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Butterfly release raises more than expected

Olds & District Hospice Society’s first annual event was also an important healing process

OLDS — The Olds & District Hospice Society’s (ODHS) first-ever butterfly release was so successful that already, organizers are planning to hold another one next year.

ODHS executive director Mary Smith said the society had hoped to sell about 100 butterflies, raising about $2,000. In the end, they ended up selling about 200, thereby raising about $4,000. 

The butterflies were released from boxes July 17 at the Olds College Botanic Gardens (also known as the wetlands) by area residents, friends and relatives in memory of loved ones who had passed on.

Smith and ODHS president Harvey Walsh are pleased with the money raised, but Smith stressed the event was more than a money raiser.

“The fundraising is nice, but really, this is a healing process," she said. 

“And even today, after talking to all of our attendees, they were so thankful for the event. They said there's something about the release of the butterfly.

“The butterflies are unique, just like people are. And some stayed and some flew and that’s just like how people are."

During a speech before the release occurred, Smith said the butterflies came from Edmonton.

“So they are local to our area, so they will survive the cold and they will be fine. They won’t have any ecological impact on our area.”

Walsh said fundraising is key to enabling the society to cover expenses because it provides its services free of charge.

Those services include hospice care, bereavement assistance and the Nav-CARE program that provides compassionate emotional and social support to people living with chronic/terminal illness.

Also, Walsh said the society is looking at expanding into other communities in the Mountain View County area because it has a waiting list for the two hospice suites it operates in Olds. 

“I think we can outdo Red Deer when it comes to these butterfly releases,” Walsh said.

“Red Deer typically has about 500 butterflies and we’re close to 200 now (so) that’s just the first year.”

Linda Maxwell of Olds and extended family were among those who participated in the butterfly release.

Maxwell said the release was “a lovely idea.” 

“It’s good for the hospice, it’s a fundraiser, it’s good for the families because it’s a celebration of people that you love. And it’s good for the wetlands,” she said.

Pastors Don Stoesz and Melissa Furst said prayers before the butterflies were released.

“The freedom experienced as the butterflies are released today is symbolic of a freedom that we all feel as we move from one stage of life to another,” Stoesz said.

“For some it may be graduation from high school. For others it may be a new career. For others still, a new relationship, a new family – even retirement after many years of service. 

“In all of these things, we remember that death is the final stage that we will pass as we move on to another life.

“May you give us courage, perseverance and hope to face the fact that we are all mortal. May we become immortal.”

“Father we’re so grateful that we can come and we can be here to remember our loved ones and those who have gone on before us,” said Furst.

“And God, I thank you for the gift of life that you’ve given and the wonderful memories that we have with each one of them, Lord.”

In closing, she said, “we thank you for strength for all those who care for those in the hospice and all the frontline workers. Lord, we thank you for your strength for them as well.”