Saturday, April 4, 2009 | 6:18 p.m.
Hundreds of black and orange Painted Lady butterflies released into the sky Saturday afternoon at a northwest Las Vegas Valley park were a symbolic tribute to lost loved ones.
But the butterflies that stayed close to the ground got the most attention from the children gathered at Buckskin Park for the annual John Anderson Celebration of Life Live Butterfly Release, sponsored by the Nathan Adelson Hospice.
Six-year-old Asia McCoy released her butterfly from its small, clear envelope. Then she watched it flutter into the grass. She poked at it with leaves and whispered words of encouragement.
Encouragement is often just what grieving people need in hard times, said Carole Fisher, chief executive officer of the hospice.
The 350 butterflies that were released had arrived the day before from a Florida butterfly farm, wrapped in ice packs. An event organizer said jet lag might explain their lethargy.
The event, which sold $25 butterflies, raised about $8,700 for the Nathan Adelson Hospice fund for patients. This fund cares for patients who find themselves near the end of life with no insurance. The hospice has two inpatient units that care for 34 patients. Outpatient services reach 350 in Southern Nevada.
About 450 people attended the sixth-annual event.
“It’s a wonderful way for people to come together who are experiencing grief and loss,” Fisher said. “We take a few moments for non-denominational prayer and it helps people in their grieving process.”
Emily McCann, of Henderson, bought a butterfly in honor of her husband, Ron, who died of cancer two years ago. She sat with a friend, Mary Matos, whose husband died after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s just nice to meet with other people (who are grieving), and there’s life here,” McCann said, motioning to all of the families who sat in the park, some who brought kites to fly on the spring day. The first butterfly released that afternoon landed in the green leaves of a tree just above their heads.
An organizer said the butterflies symbolize freedom and a new life past the grieving. The event was named in honor of Anderson, a member of the Nathan Adelson Hospice team for 23 years, who died in 2007.
Morgan and Alexus Alex, of North Las Vegas, released a butterfly to honor their grandfather, Stanley Johnson.
“He used to take me to a lot of places,” said Alexus Alex, 13. “And I remember what he looked like — tall and slim.”
“And handsome,” added her grandmother, Brenda Johnson.
For information about the nonprofit hospice visit www.nah.org.