The past year has been an extremely difficult one for an Elmira family who lost their mother and wife, Yvonne Martin, when the devastating earthquake shook Haiti in January. So the sounds of music and laughter echoing from the family barn this past weekend during their third annual square dance fundraiser were a welcome change of tune.
Yvonne Martin, a nurse at the Elmira Medical Clinic for more than 30 years, had travelled to Haiti on a number of occasions and spent a great deal of her time fundraising for the impoverished country.
“Yvonne had done this for two years as her main fundraising event for Haiti,” said Martin’s daughter-in-law Melanie. “She had this desire to serve people who were less fortunate than she was so it was very important for us to keep it going in her memory.”
This year, more than 130 visitors to the barn took their turn on the dance floor at the fundraiser that, in previous years, Yvonne had organized with her friend Judy Hiller.
“It’s the best turnout we have ever had,” said Yvonne’s husband Ron. “We only really advertised through word of mouth so I was amazed at how many people turned up.”
The idea originated when the two long-time friends decided to organize an intergenerational party for their family and friends, an event that evolved into a fundraiser for Haiti when they realized the potential for donations.
“A square dance is something that we thought would be good for all ages,” said Hiller of their brainstorming days.
“Whether you have a partner or not, you can always dance.”
In that first year, the pair raised just more than $1,000 for Haitian projects. After a rough count of the money raised this year, Ron Martin estimates the total to be nearly $5,000. The cash will be donated to the Yvonne Martin Memorial Fund, to be given to Haitian youth interested in pursuing medical studies.
“The first year we held our square dance, I remember Yvonne turned to me and she was ecstatic that we had made a thousand dollars,” said Hiller. “I can just imagine how thrilled she would be to hear how much we raised this year. She was happy with any little bit that was raised for Haiti.”
At this point, more than $80,000 has been raised in the community and donated to the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada (EMCC) in Martin’s name.
“It was very difficult to do without Yvonne this year,” said Hiller. “But our children all pitched in and we had the help of some very good friends. After seeing the success, it was well worth it all.”
For the Martin family, the sight of their barn lit up and friends and family together enjoying themselves is one which they know Yvonne would love to have seen – their celebration was bittersweet.
“Pretty much everyone who came was connected to Yvonne in some way. Everyone was welcomed by her so it has been hard to do without her,” said Melanie. “But it was important for us to be together this year and it was a very positive note to move forward from.”