Sunday wasn’t just another day for Julie Wallace. Sept. 22 marked the one-year anniversary of her daughter’s, Jazmine Forester, death. But Sunday also marked a day of hope for the family as they held a fundraiser for the Erika Kate Foundation.
“I was overwhelmed this morning, but I’m feeling relaxed and feeling grateful that people care and are here supporting this cause,” Wallace said.
The Erika Kate Hope Alliance is an organization that provides financial assistance for families who have children battling heart issues. Its mission statement is to help ease emotional, spiritual and financial burdens borne by parents of children with life-threatening heart disease.
While staying at a hospital in California, Wallace was introduced to the foundation. And while they provide financial assistance to families, it’s other programs that helped make the difference, Wallace said. Those programs include conference calls with other families going through similar situations, emails with people in the organization and more.
“They helped her financially but also emotionally as well,” Shirley Holt said. “And that’s what people need. They need emotional support. It’s a hard journey and they need someone to talk to.”
For the whole family, the past year has been a difficult one, ranging from highs and lows in Jazmine’s journey.
“It’s tough on the families, especially when there’s siblings,” Holt said. “You just live day to day and you thank your lucky stars and thank the Lord that you made it through another night.”
While Wallace and her family used today as a way to remember and celebration Jazmine’s life, it was also to help spread the word about the organization Wallace said helped her greatly. And if that can help one more family get through an ordeal similar to hers and lets them know that there is help out there, that makes the day worth it for Wallace.
“I haven’t ever met some of these people and they just showed up,” Wallace said. “I’m really excited about it. The biggest thing is we need to throw it out there that it’s a foundation for heart patients. There are not many foundations out there for this purpose. It’s all for the heart patients. There’s a family in McGill whose baby had heart surgery. Maybe there are three other families that just don’t know there’s help out there. We hope this helps turn a lot of heads.”
This year’s event was planned quickly over the span of a few weeks. But Wallace said she’s hoping this yearly event, which is celebrated in other parts of the country as well, turns into something both her family and the community can share in the years to come.
“We basically just threw this together,” Wallace said. “The important thing is to speak about this cause because the more you put the word out there, you never know, maybe next year half the community will come out. It’s been a learning experience, but today showed that people do care.”
While Wallace wanted to make Sunday about a celebration of Jazmine’s life and to get the word out about the Erika Kate Foundation, it also served another purpose. While the past year has been challenging, holding the fundraiser helped Wallace take a small step forward in her life and to help her heal emotionally.
“It really has (helped me move on),” Wallace said. “It’s been better than I thought it was going to be. I thought I would have a break down today, but feeling the love and support, it means a lot to me. I haven’t cried once today. It’s helped me. It really has.”
For more information about the Erika Kate Hope Alliance, please visit www.erikakate.org.