Over 100 butterflies to be released in remembrance of infants

Renee Fite | Claremore Progress

Michelle Downie, Compassion Women’s Center board vice president, and Carolyn Peterson, with Rogers County Master Gardeners, discuss plans for the upcoming and free Follow the Butterfly Trail event on Sunday, June 4, from 2-3:30 p.m. at The Teaching Garden, which provides families a time to honor and remember babies lost during pregnancy and through the first year of life. Those who wish to release a butterfly must text or call to reserve one at 918-216-9292. 

The release of more than 100 butterflies will grace the air on Sunday, June 4, at The Teaching Garden.

Compassion Women’s Center and partner the Rogers County Master Gardeners will host the third annual Follow the Butterfly Trail event, which provides families a time to privately release a butterfly to honor and remember babies lost during pregnancy and through the first year of life. The free event is from 2-3:30 p.m.

A mass butterfly release will follow the remembrance ceremony, which begins at 2:45 and will include a welcome, prayer, poem read by Ariel Sanders, baby names read by Catha Ashepak, and more.

Butterflies are available by reservation. June 1 is the deadline to reserve, or as long as supplies last.

Carolyn Peterson is a Master Gardener who has participated in the event three years.

“When you see the people come, it brings tears to my eyes. They’re so happy, it seems to complete the cycle for them,” Peterson said. “I’ve never lost a child, but it really seems to mean so much to them, maybe letting their grief fly away.”

It’s a great partnership between CWC and the Master Gardeners.

“I can tell you how wonderful it has been partnering with them. They’ve wrapped their arms around us and it means a lot to me,” said Michelle Downie, Compassion Women’s Center board vice president.

Remembering and releasing a butterfly inside the Teaching Garden is an emotional event for families honoring their babies while working through a stage of grief.

“Volunteers are inside the Teaching Garden to talk with the families and pray with them if they wish. We want to give them time to process their feelings in whatever manner is right for them,” said Downie. “Once the families exit the Teaching Garden, we want to help them to continue to honor their babies in a more joyous way with uplifting activities for the whole family.”

Some like to stop at the butterfly mural for photos to post on social media.

“We have face painting for littles by Studio B Artworks, kids can have fun making big bubbles with the Claremore Fire Department, and enjoy a refreshing treat from Patsy’s Sno Cone. Attendees have the opportunity to learn about butterflies and how to care for them with butterfly expert, Kay Alexander, and talk with the Master Gardeners about Oklahoma Proven plants,” she said.

CWC’s mission is to empower women, families, and unborn babies to thrive through education, resources, and Christ-centered support.

“I was moved to volunteer by the fact that CWC is there for families from the time of pregnancy through the first few years of a baby’s life,” Downie said. “Once a pregnancy is confirmed, we will talk with the mama about life-affirming options in a honest, loving and nonjudgmental way.”

She’s been on the board since 2020 and is chair of the miscarriage and infant loss program, designed to provide emotional support to women who have suffered the loss of a baby.

“We do this by providing mothers a care box that contains a journal, memory keepsakes, and other things that show the mother she does not have to walk alone in her grief,” said Downie.

Society often does not allow women or families to talk about their losses, and they are forced to grieve in silence.

“Society still stigmatizes women as if the loss was their fault. CWC recognizes the grief the family feels for not only the loss of a child, but the loss of the dreams and hopes for that child that society so easily dismisses,” Downie said.

When they learn of a loss, volunteers deliver a care box to the mother and are available to listen, talk and pray with the mother and the family.

Women who have suffered a loss are mothers, and will always be mamas to their babies, regardless of when the loss occurred.

“We want to show honor and respect to these families by giving them an opportunity to recognize their loss and move forward through the grief process,” she said.

Families that have participated in past events have shared that Follow the Butterfly Trail allowed them to grieve in a healthy way and has allowed parents to explain to a child for the first time that they have a sibling in heaven.

CWC is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that ministers to Rogers County families and surrounding communities that do not have access to their type of programs. They are not aligned with any particular church or religion, and are supported by many churches in the community.

“We serve families across all socioeconomic levels free of charge. We serve our community so people may feel the love of Christ and thrive during their life,” Downie said. “We turn no one away that needs our help.”

To reserve a butterfly, text 918-216-9292 or call 918-923-2085. The Teaching Garden is at 1564 Camden St. Claremore, and is hosted by Rogers County Master Gardeners https://www.mgaroco.com. Compassion Women’s Center of Rogers County https://www.cwcrogerscounty.org.


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