Hundreds of Monarch butterflies fluttered off into the sky after being released during a ceremony outside of the Strebel Student Center Lounge at Utica College on Tuesday.
The ceremony was part of the annual butterfly celebration organized by the Hospice and Palliative Care Development Council. The council conducts the celebration to help those mourning the loss of a loved one, or to honor someone still living.
Butterflies were sponsored at $25 each, or five for $100. The event benefits hospice services and bereavement support for those who reside in Herkimer, Oneida and Madison counties.
A second event will take place on Aug. 15 at Herkimer County Community College to support the Herkimer County Hospice Foundation.
The event took place inside the student center because organizers were uncertain on whether the rain would hold off for the ceremony. As it was, the weather — mixed sunshine and rain — produced a rainbow shortly before the start of the ceremony.
“For the second year in a row, we’ve been blessed with a rainbow,” said Linda Gail Russel, president of the Hospice and Palliative Care board at the start of the event.
Ann Tonzi, chief executive officer of Hospice and Palliative Care, encouraged those releasing butterflies to cherish the moment.
“There’s nothing like the releasing of a butterfly and that happiness,” she said. “Take in the moment, because it happens so quickly, and think about the person you are honoring. Really take it in and watch everyone and know that there are so many who have walked the same path.”
After an invocation and a reading, the names of all of those being remembered or honored were read. Then, donors, with friends and family, filed outside into the quad and picked up their butterflies for the release. Some hugged each other and others wiped away tears before the release, which was signaled with the sound of bagpipes.
Rose Mitchell, of Ilion, was there to honor her mother, Ada Corcoran, who died in 2010 after a recurring battle with cancer.
“When you think you don’t have any tears left, you let a few butterflies go,” she said. “Hospice, they helped all of us through with the support they gave. They’re very caring people.”