The spirit infused the cool autumn air: Protect everyone from the horrors of domestic violence.

And, in a natural reflection of that spirit, a local coalition illuminated skies over Westport with a "cloud" of butterflies symbolizing healing Wednesday afternoon at Earthplace.

Ninety-four butterflies found freedom during the "Healing Wings of Hope"ceremony -- one for every reported incidence of domestic violence in Westport last year.

"There were 50 in January through June of this year," said Elizabeth Juviler, the chairwoman of the Westport Domestic Violence Task Force.

Despite those depressing numbers, she said this event was meant to shine a "positive light" of awareness on the problem.

"This is more of growth, renewal, healing," she said of the event. "That's why it's called `Healing Wings of Hope.' "

Participants sponsored butterflies for a $10 donation, which will support the Domestic Violence Crisis Center. The agency has offices in Norwalk and Stamford, as well as a 24-hour hotline.

"People think that this is a wealthy community and that this doesn't happen here, (but) it affects everyone," Juviler said.

Selectman Shelley Kassen concurred. "It's real in this community and people don't know it." She said part of the event was also to make people aware of the resources available in Westport to help victims of domestic violence.

Kassen read a proclamation from First Selectman Gordon Joseloff that designates October 2012 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Westport.

"Domestic violence is widespread and affects four million Americans each year," the proclamation states. "Only a coordinated community effort will put a stop to this heinous crime (and I) urge our citizens to work together to eliminate domestic violence in this community."

Dozens of people were on hand for the butterfly release, including representatives of social-service agencies and civic organizations.

"It affects everyone, from the poor to the very rich," said police Capt. Sam Arciola, who attended with four other police officers.

He said their top priority is prevention of domestic violence. "Education is first and foremost," he said.

According to Juviler, the fundraiser was a collaborative effort by several local community groups, including the Young Women's League of Westport.

"We've always been involved in helping the DVCC in getting out the awareness, and I think it's as important getting the information out here as anywhere else," said Catharine Lloyd, YWL president.

"We're proud to host a symbolic releasing of butterflies to build awareness for domestic violence against women," said Julia Mally, president of Earthplace.

"We are a nature center and we have a dedicated garden to attract birds and butterflies, and give them shelter," she said. "And that's what the DVCC does for women who are suffering from domestic violence."