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Lives of developmentally disabled are remembered, celebrated

Lima News - 5/24/2024

May 24—LIMA — "A butterfly lights beside us, like a sunbeam ... and for a brief moment its glory and beauty belong to our world ..."

Those words form the beginning of a poem located on a sign located at Marimor Legacy Park on Lima's east edge.

That was the setting Friday of the third annual Butterfly Memorial celebration hosted by the Allen CountyBoard of Developmental Disabilities to recognize people who received services through the DD board who died during the past year. The celebration also recognizes community members who have supported those individuals and programs for the disabled community in general.

Board Superintendent Theresa Schnipke said 155 plastic butterflies now adorn the memorial garden — each representing at least one client or supporter — since the concept for the Butterfly Memorial was born in in 2021.

This year's event included 29 new butterflies, 12 of which represented people directly assisted by the Allen CountyBoard of DD. One name in particular prompted tears and laughs from caregivers from the agencies supported by the board. Melissa Kirkpatrick was a former staff member and close friend to many of those in attendance. She drowned last summer at Indian Lake in Logan County.

"The staff has cried all day" thinking about Kirkpatrick, Schnipke said prior to Friday's ceremony. Former co-workers Jana McVetta and Angie Wenger alternated between choking back tears and bursting into laughter when telling stories about their friend.

Representatives, many of them former case workers, of each of the other 12 honorees told brief stories of the loves and lives of people they had come to know well. Trois Parker, speaking of the late Janice Jennings, seemed to sum up the feeling of many of her co-workers when she said, "I miss our time together."

The Board of DD hosted its first butterfly release in May of 2022 in honor of 96 clients and caregivers. Butterflies — the plastic variety — bearing the names of more than 155 people are now on full display at Marimor Legacy Park. Schnipke said the DD board bears the $50 cost for erecting butterflies representing individuals served by the agency. Members of the community can pay to have a butterfly added for loved ones.

At the end of Friday's ceremony, a live butterfly release was held, with winged creatures fluttering in several directions.

"Peole with developmental disabilities are often overlooked and should be remembered," Schnipke said. "Days like this can be bittersweet."

The playground at Marimor Legacy Park, located adjacent to the Butterfly Memorial, is open to the public daily for adults and children of all abilities. The park has picnic areas, enclosed fencing for safety and is connected to the Ottawa Metro Park.

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