Locals have just a few weeks left to reserve butterflies for Hospice Muskoka’s signature event, which sees the region’s residents releasing butterflies in unison to honour the loved ones they’ve lost.
Families can receive one butterfly for a $30 donation or four butterflies for a $100 donation. Thanks to the event sponsors, donors will also receive a charitable receipt for their donated dollars. There’s no limit to the number of butterflies available, but since the butterfly farm needs a month to grow the monarch beauties, all orders must be in by July 10. Sandra Winspear, fund development coordinator for Hospice Muskoka, said holding the butterfly release virtually for the second year in a row is the “best possible solution to a rather difficult time.”
“We tried it last year and actually we were overwhelmed by the success,” Winspear said. “It proves to us that the value of the event far outweighs how it takes place. People are hungry for validation, for healing, and it speaks to them in so many ways.”
During a typical buttery release, participants gather in Memorial Park in Bracebridge, enjoying food, activities and music. The event brings in hundreds of people, who all go silent as the names of their loved ones are read aloud. Soon after, they all open their boxes and release the butterflies.
“You cannot imagine what it’s like to release over 800 beautiful monarch butterflies, rising to the sky in a swoop,” Winspear said. “Sometimes they just fly low around the grass at first so they kind of get their bearings, and then they often take up and they chase one another. They play, they land on people’s shoulders and hands. It truly is miraculous, and people feel they really are communicating with their loved one.”
There’s nothing like feeling the positive energy and hope that come out of the in-person event, she said, but the team at Hospice Muskoka holds a place in their hearts for the virtual event as an intimate and rewarding version of the experience. On August 15, the day of the event, participants will pick up their butterflies from one of three locations. They’re asked to bring an insulated bag, a cold pack and a tea towel to help keep the butterflies cool without freezing them.
As they warm up, they’ll start to move around more in preparation for the release, which will happen privately at each person’s home or location of choice. A program with music, readings and the names of the people being remembered will also be available through YouTube. Whether in person or online, the butterfly release plays an important role in funding Hospice Muskoka, especially as the pandemic continues to impact the finances of many charities.
“In general, people are immersed in their own challenges, their own issues, their own feelings of loneliness or isolation or fear from the pandemic or fear for their loved ones because they can’t be with them,” Winspear said. “It’s not top of their mind to be giving, so an event like this is so important because Hospice Muskoka needs to supplement its government funding by at least 55 per cent of our operating budget. That comes from the community.”
While making donations may not be foremost in people’s minds right now, anyone who has participated in the butterfly release knows that it’s a must-do event, she said. It gives some relief from the day-to-day pressures of life, and it provides essential support to both Hospice Muskoka and to its participants.
“It speaks to them, and that’s why it is so important for people to participate,” Winspear said. “They can stop, take a pause, forget their troubles, and for a few minutes, feel like they’re doing something positive and something hopeful and joyful.”
To learn more about the butterfly release, or to reserve butterflies, visit Hospice Muskoka’s website.