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A & E

Honoring a Joliet police officer's memory with butterflies

Pair of stenciled butterflies find home at Bicentennial Park

JOLIET – Two giant butterflies are perched on one wall at Joliet’s Bicentennial Park.

If Sandy Gerrettie has her way, the rest of Joliet is next.

These 12-foot- by- 7-foot painted butterflies are the result of a contest Sandy Gerrettie entered one day, a contest with a catch.

Only nonprofits could enter.

The host was the Butterfly Effect, “an underground movement redefining philanthropy one “butterfly” at a time.”

Gerrettie founded the Joseph L. Gerrettie Blue Line Heroes Foundation in memory of her husband, won the right to partner with the Butterfly Effect to raise money for the foundation.

Joe, a former Joliet police officer, was beaten for three minutes in June 2009 after responding to a report of a man threatening to burn down the house of his ex-girlfriend.

The incident left Joe with brain injuries. This led to his early retirement in 2010. Joe died in 2013.

The foundation trains therapy dogs and service dogs to “connect animals with humans for love, compassion and healing,” according to the foundation’s Facebook page.

So far, the foundation has placed two dogs, one in Westmont and one in Chicago, Sandy said. The Westmont dog was trained to assist with grief therapy. The Chicago pup went to a veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This dog has turned his life around,” Gerrettie said. “He’s now able to leave his house. He’s able to work and lead a good life.”

Now, through partnering with the City of City, Sandy is on a mission to fill Joliet with beauty and healing through butterfly murals.

Sandy is all about healing. She previously owned the former Healing and Wellness Center in Joliet.

“I think the whole country needs healing, in my opinion, especially with some of the events that happened in Joliet recently,” Gerrettie said. “I think it’s the perfect time to get the community together, to be the change we all want to see.”

Sandy said she and her son David Gerrettie drove around Joliet, considering possible locations. Many buildings were privately owned, narrowing their options. And then they stopped by the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre.

“They have this huge empty space right on the river and it’s beautiful,” Sandy said. “It’s very accessible to anyone who wants to come to the park and walk around.”

So Sandy called Joliet City Councilman Mike Turk so see if he could help. And Turk did.

Turk said he remembered Joe and called Lori Carmine, Bicentennial Park manager to explain the project to her. Carmine reached out to Sandy, Turk said, and they had an agreement within a couple days.

“Some say government doesn’t work quickly,” Turk said, “but this time it did.”

Turk said he plans to stop by soon and see the butterflies for himself.

“It’s a pretty cool project,” Turk said.

Carmine said she even suggested a more visible location for the butterflies – until she realized their size and agreed a large blank wall was best. Carmine said Bicentennial Park is full of art so they butterflies should feel at home.

Besides, this art is different.

“It has a message,” Carmine said.

Next, Sandy needed paint. So J.C. Licht in Joliet donated all the paint – 16 quarts of it.

Mike Krock, manager, said he was happy to provide the paint, especially considering the cause. So Krock led Sandy through the color wheel and helped her select colors he thought might work well for the project.

Krock said he also is planning to check out the progress and “lend a hand” if needed.

“I just feel for her and her family,” Krock said. “I wanted to show support.”

The fundraising aspect of the Butterfly Effect is simple. People take pictures of themselves next to the butterflies and post to social media, Sandy said. The Joseph L. Gerrettie Blue Line Heroes Foundation will receive $1 for each posting, she said.

Money raised will go toward training more therapy dogs, Sandy said.

Although the foundation already has a few volunteer painters, Gerrettie said she still needs more. The entire project must be completed by May 24, the day before Bicentennial Park’s Redneck Ravinia on May 25, when Bicentennial Park will unveil it.

Fortunately, helping out is simple. Because each volunteer adds personalized touches, no two butterflies are alike – nor are they meant to be.

“Just pick your colors. Here’s a brush and go do your thing,” Gerrettie said.

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KNOW MORE

To volunteer for butterfly-painting, call Sandy Gerrettie at 815-791-7484. For more information on the foundation, visit the Joseph L Gerrettie Blue Line Heroes Foundation on Facebook.

For more information on the Butterfly Effect, visit butterflyeffectbethechange.com.

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