Hundreds of butterflies took flight Wednesday evening to either memorialize or honor loved ones throughout the community.
“Take a deep breath and enjoy that beautiful moment with the butterflies,” said Ann Tonzi, chief executive officer of Hospice and Palliative Care, shortly before the butterflies were handed out and released to donors during the ceremony at Herkimer County Community College.
The sixth annual Butterfly Release Celebration allowed people to donate $25 to release a butterfly in memory or honor of a loved one. Proceeds will benefit the Herkimer County Hospice Foundation and its efforts to support hospice services in Herkimer County.
The exact number of butterflies released during Wednesday’s event was not available, but organizers said 325 were released during last year’s event.
It was a cool, partly sunny evening with varying gusts of winds at the top of the college hill. Some people greeted others arriving with hugs. Some kept tissues in their hands to wipe away tears during the ceremony.
Some of the Monarch butterflies fluttered away immediately after their release, while others lingered in the grass, or in the case of Nicolle Allbright, of New York Mills, across her face. “I love butterflies,” she said. “And I wanted to dedicate mine to my grandparents that passed away.”
Before the release, Sue Campagna, treasurer of the Herkimer County Hospice Foundation, and HCCC President Ann Marie Murray welcomed donors and visitors.
Murray reflected on the symbolism of the butterfly as she talked about the loss the community at large has felt this year with the shootings in March and the flooding in late June and July.
“Dealing with loss, one kind or another, you go into that cocoon, and we want to help heal ourselves,” she said. “The image of coming out of that cocoon is wonderful.”
After an invocation, Cindy Shepherd led a reading where those in attendance could respond by reading lines listed in the program. Then the names of those who were either memorialized or honored were read by George DeLuco, the foundation’s vice president, or Kalman Socolof, the foundation’s chairperson.
Lynne Wiliczka, of Herkimer, said as the cartons of Monarch butterflies were handed out to donors that it was the nine-year anniversary of the death of her father - Robert P. Feane. “Still can’t say that without a tear,” said Wiliczka, as she wiped one away from her eye. She was there with her daughter, Lauren, to remember her father, her mother, JoAnna Feane, and brother, Robert A. Feane.
Cindy Robinson, of West Winfield, remembered her brother, Jerry Sullivan. A butterfly released during the event landed on her forefinger as she talked about her brother.
Page 2 of 2 - “I lost him three and half years ago,” she said. “I thought this was a great tribute to him.”