Monarch butterflies snack on pieces of fruit and sugar water after being released during Columbus Community Hospital's 2016 butterfly release. This year's event is planned for 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Frankfort Square.

When Columbus Community Hospital’s annual butterfly release rolls around each year, Angie Ramaekers can’t help but feel a sense of happiness.

Throughout the last four years, the CCH director of volunteer and guest services has seen people release butterflies into the sky above Frankfort Square to honor a lost loved one, as well as to celebrate wedding anniversaries and academic graduations, among other things. She said there was once one person who released a butterfly to commemorate five years of sobriety.

“It’s a great community event. But even though there’s a big crowd, the moment a butterfly is released, everything else sort of fades away,” Ramaekers said. “In that moment, it’s you and why you’re releasing that butterfly. The reasons people are purchasing butterflies are very unique to themselves specifically.”

This year’s fifth annual butterfly release is part of the hospital’s 33rd annual Extravaganza to benefit its Surge Center for joint replacement patients. The hospital follows a comprehensive program called Surge, which its website states is based on a national best practice model for shoulder, hip and knee replacements by being structured around principles of wellness.

“The Surge Center is hugely important; people utilize it,” Ramaekers said, noting residents young and old in the community have benefited from it. “What I love about it is it’s for healthy individuals who are achieving a better quality of life through joint replacement. “

This year’s release has been bumped up from its historical July date for 10:30 a.m. this Saturday, June 23, in downtown Columbus’ Frankfort Square. Numerous butterflies have been sold, however, those wanting to release one themselves may be in luck. Those interested can visit www.columbushosp.org and fill out an entry form. Butterflies are $15 for the first purchase and $10 for each additional butterfly; cash and check are accepted. Ramaekers encouraged people to purchase butterflies ahead of time, though noted if any are available the day of, they will be sold for $20 each on site.

Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley praised the butterfly release, calling the benefits of participating twofold. With it, he said, residents can commemorate someone or something special while also supporting a community asset.

“It has really grown in popularity and it’s a really nice thing people can get involved with. You can’t ask for better reasons to get involved,” the mayor said. “Besides the release, the hospital and its continued growth and expansion are vital to the growth of Columbus. What they have done in the past and what they’re going to do in the future is very exciting for Columbus and the surrounding communities. It’s really amazing what we’ve been able to offer and continue to offer in terms of health care here in Columbus.”

Bulkley added it’s easy to take having a hospital and its joint center for granted when you don’t have to think about them. But, he stressed, just knowing they’re here should give residents peace of mind.

“It’s a hidden jewel,” Bulkley said of CCH. “When you’re not sick or in need, you forget how vital it is. But when you need it, it’s there. It has been there and will continue to be with our support.”

This weekend’s release will last about 30 minutes, according to Ramaekers. All 400 butterflies were raised on a farm and will be shipped from Florida. Each one is individually swaddled in small, triangular-shaped envelopes for the trip. They’re also shipped in a cool environment to make them sleepy, she said, adding they will awaken as they get warm.

Those who aren’t able to purchase a butterfly can still participate by buying raffle tickets in the hospital's gift shop to win a handmade butterfly quilt ($1 for one or $5 for six). Regardless of who wins the quilt, Ramaekers said everyone who sees the release will be winning.

“Every year I choose something different to focus on because there is a lot to take in,” she said. “… I’m going to look up and see what happens. Every year I choose something different to focus on so, over the course of time, hopefully I get to experience as many pieces of it as I can.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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