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Utah's 'Woman of the Year' creates safe space for court-ordered visits

Posted at 1:22 PM, Mar 30, 2023

ST. GEORGE, Utah — A St. George woman who was recently recognized by USA Today as Utah's "Woman of the Year" hopes "Blue Butterfly House" creates safety for families participating in court-ordered supervised visits.

Debbie Heisler said when she first got the call about the award, she thought it was a prank.

"They reached out to the Blue Butterfly House, one of the volunteers called me and said, 'the USA Today is trying to reach you,' and I’m like ME," she laughed.

Blue Butterfly House has a mission to provide a safe place for children and families to meet for court-ordered supervised visits.

The story behind the nonprofit is a tragedy Heisler said changed her entire life.

Her son, David Heisler was involved in a bitter custody battle and was eventually awarded permanent custody of his young daughter.

Two weeks later, the biological mother and her friends kidnapped the child, Heisler explained.

"The biological mother of my granddaughter and her friends kidnapped him from our home and took him to the Arizona mountains," Heisler said. "We searched for him for eight weeks. His body was found on August 18th that year in 2016."

Heisler said the trauma was all-encompassing but she decided something had to be done to protect future children.

"We just decided that we needed to protect future families, from having to go through anything like that," she said. "It's so emotionally charged, that any number of things can happen in those visits. And we want to set out to make sure that we could protect the parent as well as the child."

"The Butterfly House" was born and USA Today said it stuck out to them as something fulfilling a community need.

"We recognize the need to highlight that and hopefully encourage more places like that," Carli Pierson with USA Today said. "It was really her personal story and what she brings to the community.”

For Heisler, the recognition means her efforts are being seen.

"It's heartwarming to know that somebody is noticing that this is happening," Heisler said. "We're gonna make a difference."