Jessica Martel Memorial Run looking for runners

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – The tragedy of a woman’s death will be used as the motivation for triumph – the triumph of completing a 5-kilometre run and the triumph of raising funds to provide safe shelter for victims of abuse. The Jessica Martel Memorial Run, set to take place June 23, pays tribute to the memory of Martel, killed by her common law husband in April of 2009. Organized by the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation (JMMF), the group is hoping to raise $5,000 from the event, monies that will fund various initiatives to support victims of domestic violence.

Laura Hennie, Vice President of the Board of Directors for the JMMF, said the foundation is looking for up to 250 runners as well as another three volunteers to hit the 15 needed for the event.

Hennie said the organization was established in response to Martel’s tragic death at the age of 26, and to fulfil the need for a safe house within the community. The group is hoping the memorial run will raise the community’s awareness of domestic violence in the community while raising funds for a safe house initiative and other JMMF projects. Run participants will be provided with pledge forms if they wish to raise additional funds for the foundation.

“This 5km run/ walk will promote the Town’s goal of a healthy community,” Hennie said. “It will also foster a sense of shared identity by coming together as a community to stand up against domestic violence. It will support the Town’s goal of a safe community by promoting non- violence.”

You don’t have to be a runner

Hennie said level of fitness is not an important prerequisite to participating; walkers and runners are both welcome. The family friendly event also welcomes children on bikes and moms jogging behind strollers. But even those not walking, running or rolling are invited to come out.

“We encourage as many people as possible to come out and cheer on the runners,” Hennie said. “We still have a couple of volunteer positions available, which includes handing out water to walkers and runners, and pointing them in the right direction.”

Partnered with festival

The Jessica Martel Memorial Run takes place June 23, the final day of St. Jean Baptiste Festival 2013. Hennie said she believes running the event in partnership with the annual summer festival will draw in people from other communities who will have the opportunity to check out other festival events and offerings. “The JMMF believes in strong community partnerships, and this partnership was a good fit,” Hennie said.

Making inroads

The foundation is hoping for continued partnerships and fundraising opportunities in its efforts to support victims of domestic violence. They are currently financially supporting a housing initiative in St. Albert where victims of domestic violence and their families are assisted in re-establishing a safe home environment.

“Those who have no financial resources are provided with a suite rent-free for two to three months, after which time, they may apply to stay in their suite at a subsidized rate,” Hennie said, adding $6,500 will fund one suite, rent free, for a year. “[That] will provide up to six families with the opportunity for a new beginning.”

The JMMF is also involved in providing victims of domestic violence with basic amenities, including groceries and furniture, and offering self defense courses to both the general public and to victims of domestic violence who are in shelter or second stage housing in surrounding areas.

“We are currently establishing ourselves in the community by taking on initiatives … until we are ready to take on our larger goal of opening and independently operating a safe house for victims of domestic violence,” Hennie explained. “We are encouraged and motivated by the level of community support for our foundation but also recognize the level of resources that will be required to sustain a safe house.”

Those interested in helping the Jessica Martel Foundation with their goals can register for the June 23 run at www.events.runningroom.com/site/?raceId=8596. Those interested in volunteering can email Laura Hennie at laurahennie@hotmail.com.

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