Meet Calm Waters Mermaid Barbara Butner

There are ideas people and there are people people. This week’s mermaid is certainly a person who is passionate about people. She’s also a pretty stellar person herself. Barbara Butner, the executive director of Calm Waters, which provides free counseling for children experiencing a loss through death, divorce, deployment or incarceration, is a high vibe individual and I love riding the tide with folks like her. With a magnetic energy and a real commitment to serving others, Barbara tells us what drives her in our interview.

I’d also like to congratulate her and Calm Waters on being selected as the recipient for Swine Week at Edmond Memorial High School where my teens attend school. The students spend the school year raising funds then devote an entire week in March to the cause before the big reveal of the donation on Friday. They do everything from dares to events in a well-orchestrated fundraising tradition that is a truly a group effort from the whole student body. After Barbara’s story I’ll share the total raised this year!

ML:  Tell us about the moment you made the deep dive for your dreams with Calm Waters and some of your successes you are most proud of from over the years, whether personal or professional.

Barbara Butner
Calm Waters executive director Barbara Butner

BB:  Having been raised in Butner, Oklahoma, I attended          Wewoka schools and graduated from OU and was a bit intimidated and felt like Norman was a really big city! I was a fish out of water but when I went to work with the airlines, my base was NYC so I grew up really fast and developed a huge love and respect for the city.  I started running long distance in 1975 and did my first of 11 marathons in 1994 in NYC. It took me 11 marathons to qualify for Boston’s marathon and to continue that quest was a great personal victory!  In regards to Calm Waters: today, we serve about 1400 -1500 annually. I am most proud of this growth! We are in 20 public school systems, and have been in over 150 schools!

ML:  I’m sure NYC appreciated your small town warmth, Barbara. And I can totally see that you would have the stamina for marathons! It almost feel silly to ask this because I don’t think I’ve ever seen with a smile NOT on your face, but what always makes you smile bigger than usual?

BB:  People! I love people; hearing their stories, meeting new folks and hearing how they have managed to overcome a difficult situation. It makes me smile when I hear the outcomes. My grandson Harry, my family, friends and my new staff! I love them all!

barbara butner 3
Barbara with her grandson, Harry


ML:  What’s been the biggest challenge in your life and what did you do to overcome adversity?

BB:  Prior to coming into the non-profit world, I had to make a decision as to whether I should follow the crowd and go up against a company that had been good to me or go on strike.  (My aunt and mother had died within four weeks of each other and my company had been exceptional to me in allowing time off to handle their affairs.)  I took the road less traveled and it was the toughest thing I ever had to do.

barbara butner2

ML:  What are your favorite tool(s) for enlightened living (presence, intention, action)?

BB:  If I understand this question, running, spending time with my friends and family and especially, spending time at Windy Acres with my beau.

Connect with Barbara and Calm Waters here:  Helping children and families in their grief journey caused by death, divorce or other significant loss.

On March 11, Calm Waters received an incredible $524,452. I love that it amounts to kids helping kids! Click on the total to read the full story at newsok.

Barbara speaking at a Swine Week assembly.
Barbara speaking at a Swine Week assembly.

To living in the deep,



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