Butterflies and Hope Story

Donald and Hisako Dwinnells never had an opportunity to pursue higher education. Don earned a GED while serving in the U.S. Army during WWII and the Korean conflict; Hisako finished high school in Japan. They worked hard and lived their version of the American Dream: owned their home, sent three boys to college and took an occasional vacation. Part of the dream and a way of life was to always help others in need. It is with this belief that their son, Ronald Dwinnells, M.D., created this foundation.

Don joined the Navy when he was 17 years old.  He served in the Navy and later the Army for 21 years, much of it seeing combat during WWII and the Korean Conflict.  In later years, he suffered from diabetes which ultimately led to depression.   Was the depression, in part, also a result of PTSD he may have suffered from the war years?  Despair and hopelessness eventually became so overwhelming he took his own life in 1984 at the age of 57.

Hisako lived in Japan as a little girl when the Allied forces bombed her home for days on end during WWII.  She ran through the streets, leaping over dead bodies littering the streets while houses and buildings were set ablaze from the bombings.  Although she seemed to have survived the psychological stresses of this time period unscathed, she did develop Alzheimer’s Dementia with paranoia and delusions later in life.  She ultimately developed cancer and passed away in 2016 just before her 83rd birthday. Click here to read “A Tale of Two Diseases”.

As a long-time practicing pediatrician, Dr. Dwinnells has seen many illnesses take their toll on children. The most devastating and not always the most obvious are diseases affecting young minds and behavior such as depression, anxiety and even suicide. Research studies (Click here) he has conducted at ONE Health, reveal that a full 2/3 of medical patients 18 and older have some type of behavioral health issue. Many of these problems began long ago from childhood.  It is known that children, especially those of the post-911 generation, suffer depression and anxiety more than ever before.  They are constantly under societal pressures. Click here to read “The Kids are Not All Right”. If these issues had been addressed and “fixed” as children, perhaps they could have been spared of the devastating effects on themselves, families and society.

With Hisako’s passing and a small inheritance, Dr. Dwinnells will honor his parents with this charitable foundation.  It will aspire to transform the lives of children afflicted with depression, addiction and other behavioral health problems.

How the Butterflies and Hope Memorial Foundation was named

When Dr. Dwinnells’ mother was at Hospice House receiving loving and passionate care, he noticed butterfly images everywhere:  paintings and photos on walls, butterfly-shaped benches in the courtyard and even blankets adorned with beautiful butterflies.  Inquiring about the significance, a beautiful metaphor was explained:  while on earth, we are like caterpillars but with death, we transform into butterflies–our spiritual beings after death.

Hisako passed away on February 5th, 2016.  On his birthday a month later, Dr. Dwinnells knew he would not have Hisako with him as he had for every birthday.  Saddened, he went for a vigorous hike in the woods where a monarch butterfly suddenly appeared high atop a leafless tree.  It descended gracefully and fluttered around in circles, then disappeared after a few seconds.  Was this the spiritual form of Hisako?

Butterflies are mystical messengers transcending Hope for those of us who have lost and grieved.  Dr. Dwinnells hopes that people, especially children, can be helped through the Butterflies and Hope Foundation.


Butterflies and Hope Strategy

The Foundation began with $10,000 donated by Ronald Dwinnells, M.D.  The strategy is to use this “seed money” to support unique fundraising projects benefiting behavioral health programs that will improve the lives of children, young adults and families.


Butterflies and Hope Objectives

  1. To raise funds through community fund-raising activities and direct solicitation.
  2. To support organizations and projects addressing issues related to children, young adults and families affected by depression, anxiety, addiction, bullying and suicide.
  3. To support research and education related to behavioral and mental health issues and interventions in children, young adults and families.