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Balloon launch to commemorate birth mothers

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The skies throughout central Illinois will be filled with balloons beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday when the Center for Youth and Family Solutions commemorates the sacrifices of birthmothers who placed children in adoption.

The inaugural Birthmother's Day Balloon Launch will occur simultaneously in seven towns in central Illinois. The Center plans for the launch to become an annual event.

"For many mothers, Mother's Day is a time of celebration with their children and families, spent enjoying each other's company and gift-giving. For birthmothers, however, this day is often marked with remembering the loss of the child they placed in adoption," said a news release from the Center for Youth and Family Solutions.

The Birthmother's Day celebration honors and remembers first mothers, whose children have been placed in adoption. Everyone in the community is welcome to attend the balloon launch, which will include a short ceremony.

Mary Kay Collins, assistant director of adoption at CYFS, explains, "Our Crisis Pregnancy and Adoption Counselors carefully considered how to not only give a voice to the birthmother's loss, but also a way to honor and respect their sacrifice. A balloon launch symbolized raising the motherhood experience for birthmothers. As a society, we need to help birthmothers step out of the shadows and be acknowledged as first mothers to the children they placed for adoption."

Since 1990 the Saturday before Mother's Day has been set aside to honor and remember the motherhood experience of birthmothers who placed their children in adoption.

Founded in Seattle, the day purposefully falls on the day before Mother's Day to symbolize the reality that a birthmother's decision makes the adoptive mother's motherhood possible.

"Historically, birthmothers are often the invisible members of the adoption process. The loss of their child was only intensified when told to 'forget' or 'move on'. Many birthmothers become a shadow in the lives of the adoptee and the adoptive family they helped create," the Center said.

As adoptions began to move toward more openness, birthmothers began to step out of the shadows and into a role that is uniquely theirs, it added.

"It is extremely important to me to be remembered by my children as well as their adoptive parents. Adopting out my children was the hardest decision I have ever made. It was not a decision to be taken lightly. It was an extremely selfless act and took a lot of courage," said Jessica, a CYFS birth mother.

"Knowing about Birthmother's Day helps me know my children and their adoptive parents have a chance to remember how much I love my children and how much pain I struggled with to give them the life they now have with their adoptive families," she said.

The locations for the balloon launches are

  • In Peoria, at the Center for Youth and Family Solutions office at 2610 W. Richwoods Boulevard.
  • In Bloomington, at the Center for Youth and Family Solutions office at 502 S. Morris Ave.
  • In Macomb, at Chandler Park, north of the Square.
  • In Springfield, at the Center for Youth and Family Solutions office at 614 N 6th St.
  • In LaSalle, at Grace United Methodist Church at 1345 Chartres St.
  • In Rock Island, at Heritage Church at 4801 44th St.
  • In Champaign, at the Center for Youth and Family Solutions office at 315 A Curt Drive.

The balloons will be a variety of colors "to allow people to pick the color they feel is most appropriate and best represents their experience with their birth mother," said Meg Murphy, director of marketing and communications for the Center for Youth and Family Solutions. She said the number released at each location will vary, but added there will be at least two dozen at each site.

The Center for Youth & Family Solutions is a not-for-profit social service agency providing strength-based, family-centered social services to youth and families in need throughout Central Illinois.

Services include foster care, child abuse prevention, crisis response for runaways and their families, adoption, intervention and education with at-risk youth, counseling for individuals and families, mental health crisis response and community advocacy programs.

For more information, visit www.cyfsolutions.org.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).