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The 13th Annual Live Butterfly Release a success

"The volunteers are not there just to support the dying member but to support the family also."

It is lucky 13 for the Near North Palliative Care Network (NNPCN), as it celebrated its 13th Annual Live Butterfly Release, which is a fundraiser for the organization.

Chair of the Board of Directors, Jenny Leblond says everyone is pleased to be able to return to an in-person celebration of life at the Kiwanis Band Shell at the North Bay waterfront.

“We so missed the people all being able to get together to do this event and see the butterflies get released. It is just a beautiful thing.”

In addition, NNPCN is celebrating 35 years of Palliative Care.

The not-for-profit organization provides Palliative Care, Bereavement, and Grief and End of Life services.

“We provide visiting hospice services, so when you are at your end of life, whether you’re in a home, hospital, or hospice we will provide support to you where ever you are. Whatever you need, we will support that end-of-life process,” explained Leblond.

“And I think especially for people who may not have the family support, having a volunteer that is there consistently with you during that end is important to us.”

The organization provides services to communities in Nipissing and East Parry Sound Districts, including the communities of West Nipissing, North Bay and area, Mattawa region, Almaguin, Temagami, and East Parry Sound to name but a few.

The network also provides caregivers with much-needed respite.

“The volunteers are not there just to support the dying member but to support the family also,” shared Leblond.

“Our volunteers can come in and give the family members a bit of a break, to have a rest or go do something they would like to do themselves.”

Bev Charron has been a volunteer for over 25 years and a board member for 14 years.

"The actual hands-on volunteers have extremely wonderful stories to tell us about their clients over the years.”

Volunteers are available to visit beyond just a few hours during the day and evening..

“We have volunteers who will do overnight stays as well”

In the past caregivers have shared how nice it was to have a good night’s sleep knowing someone else was in the home to help provide care through the night.

On Saturday, people gathered from far and wide to attend the live release ceremony where they were given their pre-purchased butterflies to be released in unison in memory of a loved one at the conclusion of the ceremony.

The butterflies arrive in small specially designed individual boxes. Once they have opened the heat and light stir the butterfly which will fly away to other parts, but often not before landing on people nearby which is a thrill to those friends and family members who gather for this emotionally charged event.

The NNPCN shared the butterfly legend, which encourages people to whisper a wish to their butterfly, “by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom, the wish will be taken to the heavens and will be granted.”

“Since a butterfly can make no sound, it cannot reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all.”

People often bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit on to enjoy the music, guest speakers, and inspirational readings during the hour-long celebration of life.

Raymonde Heroux attended a release three years ago for her father.  

“That was something else. It was very emotional, I almost cried. And today, it is still emotional.”

Now she is back after having lost her adult son a year ago.

“For Michel Bellehumeur who passed away a year ago. He was 56 years old. And also my brother passed away two years ago,” explained Heroux.

“It is something special when you see all the people coming together. It really is something.”     

Heroux encouraged her sister Nicole Gregoire to attend with her this year.

“It is an emotional release for sure, especially with my brother who passed away three years ago. It is still fresh. Because of COVID, I missed the family.”

Bernice Blomme is a regular at the event.

“For one thing, we keep losing loved ones, and my sister is a volunteer. I come up from Mississauga to be here every year,” said Blomme.

“It makes me feel peaceful, remembering that one person we release the butterfly for, that we lost. It is a special memory of them.”

This is the third year for Micheline Bedard who this year attended with her five grandchildren.

“They are sending messages to their special guardian angels who they’ve actually never met, but I talk about them all the time. A few of them have met my sister, but they’ve never met my parents. And my daughter lost a friend as well so we have a butterfly for her special friend,” said Bedard, who added that it doesn’t get any easier.

“The tears are coming now. Every year it brings back the tears. It is just a beautiful event to be with the kids and the grandkids.”  

Part of the proceeds from this fundraiser will assist with volunteer training as  NNPCN continues to offer its free palliative care and bereavement services.

It also helps pay for the packages volunteers bring to the individual.

“They would possibly have things like incontinent pads, diapers, very mild solutions just for massages, and that type of thing. Sometimes even something as simple as a package of a cup of soup or a cup of tea, so they can have all this in packages as well.”

To find out more about the services or how to become a volunteer, go to

Organizers expect by the time the final count is done, it will have reached its fundraising target of $20,000 through the sale of roughly 700 butterflies purchased in memory of a loved one.