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On paper wings: Local organization holds event to honor infants lost

Gusts of wind caught hold of papercraft butterflies, causing them to flap and flutter in the sunshine that shone upon Eagles Park, where dozens of people--children, parents and grandparents--were gathered.

Members of the North Dakota branch of the TEARS Foundation walk in remembrance for lost infants during a breezy Saturday memorial event in Eagles Park. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)
Members of the North Dakota branch of the TEARS Foundation walk in remembrance for lost infants during a breezy Saturday memorial event in Eagles Park. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)

Gusts of wind caught hold of papercraft butterflies, causing them to flap and flutter in the sunshine that shone upon Eagles Park, where dozens of people-children, parents and grandparents-were gathered.

They had come to remember those who could not be there-infants lost during pregnancy or shortly thereafter, as a part of the North Dakota chapter of the TEARS Foundation's "Rock & Walk" memorial event.

"We've had a really good turnout," Jamie Binstock, state chapter leader, said. "We may have few families, but those families have a lot of members who have been affected. We've had a really good response from the community."

The foundation raises money to help families struggling with their grief afford funeral expenses, including grave markers. Though the atmosphere felt light, with a DJ putting on bouncy pop songs and children laughing and playing freely, it was loss and grief that brought Binstock and her committee together, and led to the formation of this chapter of the organization just this past April.

"I lost a girl last year in March, a second trimester loss," Binstock said. "She was almost 16 weeks. I didn't want to sit on my grief, I needed to do something with it. I browsed the web and found the TEARS Foundation and saw that North Dakota did not have a chapter yet."

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The "Rock & Walk" featured rocking chairs, to symbolize the time left unspent between mother and child, as well as the walk itself, where those impacted by grief held a banner and marched in solidarity along the path. On either side of the path they took were butterflies, each one emblazoned with the name of a loved one lost.

"Whenever I go and visit my boy's grave I always see butterflies there," Elizabeth Olheiser, a member of the group's leadership committee, said. "It symbolizes to me that they're here, that they ... are present with us all the time."

The group has been official since April, and already they've raised upwards of $12,000-$7,000 of that leading up to this weekend's event. The group intends to put on more events in the future, specifically a balloon release on Oct. 15, which is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. That event will be free to the public.

Overall, the group's mission remains to provide a means for those impacted by this particular sort of loss to find support in others who know what it's like.

"You are not alone in your tears," Binstock said. "There are so many more out there who have also lost. We want to be here with you, we want to help you remember them in the way you choose to."

The TEARS Foundation is a non-profit organization which seeks to assist bereaved parents with the financial expenses involved in making final arrangements for an infant that has died. It was founded in 2002.

Butterflies serve to represent the lives of children lost in their infancy or even before birth at a memorial event in Eagles Park this Saturday. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)
Butterflies serve to represent the lives of children lost in their infancy or even before birth at a memorial event in Eagles Park this Saturday. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)

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