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A touching release: Butterfly event helps hospice program

Photo contributed by Candy Bohjanen-Hammitt Butterflies will be released in honor of loved ones who died, and those who are still with us during the annual memorial butterfly release at 5:30 on Tuesday, July 27 at City Park in Alexandria. The event is put on by the Hospice of Douglas County.

Butterflies are a symbol of life, death, renewal and hope - ideas that are at the heart of the Hospice of Douglas County.

The summer sky will be filled with butterflies in honor of loved ones who have died, and those who are still with us, during the fourth annual Memorial Butterfly Release at 5:30 on Tuesday, July 27 at City Park.

This event is open to those who have benefited from hospice and to the community as a whole.

The release is a unique and touching experience, according to Lynn Johnson, Hospice volunteer coordinator. People have the opportunity to free their own butterfly, which will often gently alight on a hand or arm before fluttering away.

Butterflies are available for purchase for a cost of $10 dollars each. Proceeds raised will benefit hospice recipients whose care isn't completely covered by reimbursements.

The goal of hospice is to help people with terminal illness to live as comfortably and as fully as possible by providing care wherever a patient calls home. It offers many personalized services including working to manage pain, maintain independence and dignity, and to address physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs.

"It really is a journey, with lots of bumps along the way," said Johnson. "We help to make it as smooth as possible."

The hospice team is made up of more than 40 employees and volunteers. The team consists of a medical director, social worker, pharmacist and chaplain, as well as nurses, hospice aides, volunteers and therapists of all kinds. Together, they worked to serve more than 180 families in 2009.

The family-centered approach to care can be for short term or long term, and is not for any one age group or illness. Hospice works with families dealing with many different diagnoses.

The Hospice of Douglas County provides compassionate care, and has the unique aspect of music and massage therapy.

"It is incredible what a difference these things can make in people's lives," said Johnson.

Hospice invites everyone to come to the butterfly release event, a time for family and friends to gather in support of one another.

Music will be courtesy of Emergency Stop, and desserts will be provided by Culver's.

To purchase butterflies, contact Lynn Johnson at (320) 762-3045, or contact Hospice of Douglas County, located at 725 Elm Street, Suite 1200.

According to Johnson, "These butterflies simply show that life goes on."