Mari Gruber, owner of Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary, Penn Forest Township, explains the Indian legend about butterflies and wishes, prior to a release of live butterflies that benefited the Blue Ridge Chapter of Dream Come True.

Butterfly sanctuary opening benefits Deam Come TrueBy KAREN CIMMS Saturday's rain only slightly dampened spirits at the Wings of Hope Celebration at Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary in Penn Forest Township, but did nothing to diminish smiles on the faces of those participating.

The event was hosted by Mari Gruber and the butterfly sanctuary to benefit the Blue Ridge Chapter of Dream Come True, an organization that fulfills the dreams of children who are seriously, chronically, or terminally ill.

The fund-raiser coincided with Bear Mountain Butterflies 2004 season grand opening.

"The weather couldn't have been worse," said Gruber, "but everyone who came seemed to have a wonderful time." The highlight of the event was a live butterfly release. Due to the weather, it was held inside, in the butterfly garden. Everyone who gathered in the garden was given an envelope, containing a live butterfly.

Gruber explained the Indian legend behind releasing a butterfly ] If you have a wish you want to come true, you must capture a butterfly andwhisper the wish to it, then release it.

Since butterflies make no sound, they cannot reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit. In gratitude for giving the butterfly its freedom, the Great Spirit will grant the wish.

At Gruber's countdown, dozens of butterflies were freed from their glassine confines and fluttered about the garden, landing on the wishers as well as the brightly colored flowers they find so attractive.

Particularly enjoying the experience was 11-year-old Voula Sabol of Palmerton. She is the first child to receive a dream from the newly formed Blue Ridge Chapter of Dream Come True.

In April, Voula and her parents, Kay and Adam Johnson, spent a week in Florida, visiting Disney's Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom, as well as Sea World and Universal Studios.

Voula suffers from a rare condition called Towne's Syndrome, which caused her to have heart surgery at the tender age of 2. She must see a cardiologist regularly and experiences other health problems due to her illness.

Despite her illness, Voula is a bright and cheery child with a big smile. Her laughter was contagious as she sat patiently in her wheelchair, while a large tiger swallowtail butterfly made his way up her long braids, finally locating a comfortable perch on her ear.

Voula said she had never been so close to a butterfly before, let alone dozens of them, as two Monarchs rested on her colorful barrettes and a Painted Lady perched on her knee, while another collected nectar from a feeding stickshe held in her hand.

"They're so colorful," she said, squirming as a Monarch walked up her arm, tickling her.

So that Voula and the other children who came to the Wings of Hope Celebration could undergo the true experience of wishing on a butterfly, Gruber gave each one a live butterfly to take home and release as soon as the weather cooperated.

Other activities for the Wings of Hope Celebration included free crafts and face painting for children, live music provided by Ricky Bell, Nazareth, and his band, and Jim Cimms, Penn Forest Township.