Butterfly Circle of Friends: From Great Grief to Infinite Beauty

By: Randi Cairns

Giving back to one’s community is ingrained in so much of what Powerhouse Planning does. We give at least 10% of all profits to those in need through our Share the Goodness program. We support the causes and efforts our team is passionate about. And we highlight the great people and places making a difference in our communities. This commitment to giving back is one of many reasons I love being part of the Powerhouse team. And when I was given the opportunity to write about a superhero doing work for causes I care about—well, that was just icing on the cake.

I met Ida Gonzalez years ago. We were both involved in military family support efforts and open to collaborating to better meet the needs of those we served. I fell in love with Ida from the start. She was so down to earth and genuine (and the giver of hugs that make you feel warm and safe). And she had a fire in her belly to make the world better.

While we worked together on several projects, what Ida likely doesn’t know is she kind of saved my life. I was a mama of four trying to hold down the fort while my soldier was Afghanistan-bound when police knocked at my door to tell me my baby sister was dead. She had been my person for my whole life and she was gone, and I really didn’t think I was going to survive that.

But Ida told me I could and I would. And she knew this because three years earlier, her son SPC Michael L. Gonzalez was KIA in Baghdad. And from grief and loss and pain, she not only survived, but she also created a remarkable legacy in memory of her son: the Butterfly Circle of Friends.

The butterfly represents the beauty that can emerge from darkness, and the “circle of friends” in the organization’s name serves as a reminder of love and support in times of sadness. Butterfly Circle of Friends is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to assist those in need, primarily focusing on veterans, service members, and their families.

Michael served his country, making the ultimate sacrifice, because he believed in making a difference. Now his mama (the amazing Ida), his father (the equally amazing Pedro), and the Butterfly Circle of Friends help Michael’s light continue to shine through the good works done in his name.

This exceptional work is done with an all-volunteer team and no administrative costs. Every dollar raised goes directly back to fund Butterfly Circle of Friends’ efforts. Like helping to fund micro housing for homeless and at-risk veterans, endowing a scholarship in Michael’s name for student veterans; supporting equestrian therapy programs; furnishing veterans’ housing; providing holiday gifts and toys to military families; helping to meet basic needs with gift cards for gas, food, and clothing; providing funds to families with sick children; and more.

If there is anyone on this planet who owes nothing to anyone, it’s Ida. She already gave her most precious gift on earth in service to others the day she accepted a folded flag from a grateful nation. Yet every day, through who she is and the work she does, she gives back to others. Michael lives on—not just in the hearts of those who knew and loved him, but through each person blessed to know and be loved and helped by Ida. People like me.

If you’d like to support the Butterfly Circle of Friends in honor of Ida or in memory of Michael, you can do so here.