By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Surrounded by sequins and lace at her mom’s shop, Kitra Smith helps daily in her family’s business of transforming people for special occasions — morphing into one day of being their very best self. The metamorphous provided at Formal Fantasy is helping people celebrate their strong bonds — but Kitra’s mom, Stacia Smith, wanted to show her support for healthy relationships in a more visible way so she enlisted her artistic daughter to submit a design for a butterfly which is a symbol of awareness for Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services. The Smiths plan to showcase the butterfly outside their store at 121 E. 9th Ave.
Many more butterflies will soon be fluttering into Stillwater and surrounding communities to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault for the Women with Wings: Seeds of Hope dinner fundraiser set for April 4 at Oklahoma State University’s Wes Watkins Center. The evening starts at 5:30 p.m. and will feature a dramatic program, along with dinner and an auction. The deadline to purchase tickets is Thursday. Call 405-372-9922 to order individual tickets for $65 or $100 for a couple — or stop by the center at 3800 N. Washington.
Examples of butterflies and a giant caterpillar will be on display at the fundraiser. In 2012, 20 four-foot-by-four-foot butterflies were designed for the fundraiser and placed around Stillwater. Area artists are working on designs for 20 more butterflies to be located here and in the surrounding communities. Designs are individual to the artists and businesses, schools or churches that purchase the butterflies. Several of the people who are designing butterflies have been inspired by the agency’s mission.
“Butterflies are a symbol of hope for Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services because they hold the promise of change for victims of violence. The transition from caterpillar through to the chrysalis and emergence as a butterfly is one of the greatest transformations in the world,” said Marie Abraham-Robinson, executive director. “We are changing the cycle of violence through safety, hope and empowerment.
Many residents have stepped forward with donations of exciting live auction items for the fundraiser. Charles Kaupke is the auctioneer with interesting travel donations such as a vacation stay in Hawaii, sports memorabilia and heirloom treasures like a quilted wall hanging. Some fun parties for your friends and family are on the auction block including an authentic English low tea, OSU tailgating and dinner at a ranch.
“Live entertainment by ‘Inspired’ will get the crowd jazzing,” she said.
The fundraiser is extremely important for the agency’s total budget as “many of the salaries at the Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services are grant-funded and we stand to lose money as a result of the sequestration issue,” she said. “We need the community’s continued financial assistance in order to fulfill the mission.”
The agency has been in existence for more than 30 years. Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services houses the shelter for victims of domestic violence, but it provides much more — 24-hour help line, individual and group counseling, parenting education, victim advocacy, sexual assault response teams, children’s programs, relief nursery, community education, interventions for abusive individuals, consultation and protective order information and assistance.
“Last year, a woman came to our agency, and she was crying and clearly in crisis. When I brought her to my office, she told me that she was a victim of domestic violence and had become homeless,” Abraham-Robinson said.
When asked what motivated her to come to the agency, the abuse victim responded, “I was walking downtown, and I passed by one of the butterflies on the sidewalk. I looked at it, and I just knew it was time to get help.”
Abraham-Robinson said butterflies are a symbol of hope to reach out to those in crisis in the community to empower victims to seek help. The base of every butterfly includes the agency’s phone number, along with the artists and butterfly’s name.
There are still some butterflies available for sale. Each butterfly costs $2,200 — but their value is priceless, Abraham-Robinson said.
“We serve five counties, and it would be great to have butterflies in every county,” she said.
A victim advocate works in Cushing on Tuesdays and in Perry on Thursdays. Wings of Hope is also encouraging men to make a statement as well and stand up against domestic violence. One way they can do so is by purchasing a butterfly and placing it in front of their business or their child’s school.
“The majority of men in our community are supportive and endorse the work that we do,” Abraham-Robinson said.
She encourages them to make an even more powerful statement by purchasing a butterfly - and on this journey embrace change for a new flight path of hope.