*Kimberly Lockhart is the Co-Chair of the Vancouver Butterfly Run. In this post she shares with us how the run has grown over the past few years, what has been accomplished so far, and where she sees it going in the future.
After the loss of my son Wilder in 2017, I was searching for community and connection with others who had experienced something similar. The biggest source of comfort to me was talking to other mothers who had lost a baby. I started sending out messages to other moms I had met who also had experienced loss, asking if they would want to join in creating this memorial walk/run. I think the initial message I sent out said - “I have no idea about how to do this, I just know we need something to bring us together to remember our babies.” I think I asked 20 people to be a part of it.
Our first meeting was in January 2019 - a group of 10 of us came together, meeting in a condo common room in downtown Vancouver. We discussed the idea and tried to figure out how to even begin. I remember we talked about how if we could even reach 100 people our first year that would be amazing. We were working with The Running Room, and they thought we should aim to get 250 people registered. We were just hoping we could raise enough money to cover the cost of the race. We continued to aim for 100 participants and a goal of raising between 5 to 10 thousand dollars.
Fortunately, we received a lot of help from the Butterfly Run Ottawa who had been running their own event for a few years already. The Ottawa committee helped us figure out how to get started with creating Butterfly Run Vancouver and we are forever grateful for their support.
Fast forward to launching our first Vancouver Butterfly Run in October 2019. That in-person event brought together 520 participants, 55 volunteers and an astonishing $55 000 was raised to donate to BC Women's hospital. That was over five times our original goal! To say we were BLOWN AWAY is an understatement. We were floored by the interest, participation and success of our first year.
The money that was raised by the inaugural Vancouver Butterfly Run went to the BC Women's Health Foundation, which in turn supported the following projects and services:
The Hummingbird Project - a participatory-based research project about the trauma experienced through stillbirth, and the creation of a podcast series for those who’ve experienced stillbirth.
Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic & Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Clinic - The Butterfly Run helped to fund an initiative to create an educational video explaining what miscarriage is and to answer frequently asked questions.
MyPostCare - Begin researching and creating an online support App to help women safely navigate the initial period of early pregnancy loss. This digital tool will help women understand what to expect at each stage of their recovery and when/how to access mental health support.
BCW Maternity Unit - We donated candles to the Bereavement Boxes that are gifted to families experiencing a stillbirth or infant loss. As well, the Butterfly Run donated photography equipment to allow hospital staff to take photos for families experiencing pregnancy/infant loss when photographers are unavailable.
We had exceeded our goals for that first run by so much that we quickly realized the community centre gym we had rented for 2019 was not going to be big enough for the following year. Run Co-Chair Laura Markle and I immediately began scouting for a larger location with the hopes that 2020 would possibly bring out as many as 1000 participants.
But of course, 2020 was a year full of surprises. As we planned for a larger in person event - Covid-19 changed our plans. We had to pivot and figure out a way to create a virtual event for the 2020 Butterfly Run Vancouver. This was particularly hard because one of the things that is so important to our committee - is to create a sense of community & bring together families. We want every person who is facing loss to know that they are not alone, that they are supported and there is a safe place to share their stories and say their babies name(s). At first we were very reluctant to have to move to an online event as we worried we could lose that connection we had hoped to create.
However, we forged ahead into unknown territory creating a 2020 virtual event and working to connect teams and participants as best we could through social media. As it turns out, the 2020 virtual event was EVEN BIGGER and more successful than our previous year. In the end, we raised $64 000 and had over 600 runners and walkers participating safely with their families and teams in their own neighbourhoods.
The BC Reproductive Mental Health (RMH) Program at BC Women’s Hospital received the majority of our fundraising for 2020. RMH supports women experiencing mental health challenges during and after pregnancy, including those experiencing pregnancy loss. They currently serve 5000 patients and complete 1000 new patient assessments annually.
The money raised in 2020 also went to support Fertility Matters Canada (FMC). FMC is a national organization that empowers Canadians to reach their reproductive health goals by providing support, awareness, information and education. They promote equal access to fertility treatments and offer local/virtual support groups.
In 2020 we supported Aboriginal Mother Centre Society, a grief support group through Heritage Family Health Group, bereavement boxes for local hospitals, and sent out comfort cards to bereaved families.
Which brings us to today and our planning for the 2021 edition of the Vancouver Butterfly Run. We have launched a new website and a new logo as we prepare for another virtual event (hopefully our last virtual run). We learned a lot from the first virtual run and we are hopeful that things will run even smoother as we move into this second year of a socially distant run. We have just announced our 2021 run will be held on Saturday, October 2nd.
We will be closely watching and monitoring what the provincial health orders are at the end of the summer in the hope we can offer small gathering spots in multiple locations for those who would like to get together in person and connect with the broader community.
We are hoping that this years virtual event can match or exceed the support and registration we had last year. Most importantly- we hope that this years virtual event brings some comfort to a family who is new to their grief. We hope that someone who has recently experienced a loss, feels seen and feels supported. I hope that the families who have just discovered the Butterfly Run Vancouver feel a little less alone on their journey.