Many stories have poured out of the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. None is more poignant than that of the satirical River City Revue Burlesque.
Using their cheeky production, River City Gets Wet, the burlesque troupe donated a percentage of its proceeds to the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation.
Martel was a stunning brunette with luminous eyes and a gorgeous smile. But the Morinville resident was in a violent, abusive relationship. On April 29, 2009, her common-law husband beat, stabbed and strangled her to death. Martel’s three traumatized children, all under the age of seven, were found cowering in their rooms with blood on their clothes.
The foundation, staffed by volunteers, is fundraising to build a women’s shelter in Morinville dedicated to serving surrounding Sturgeon County residents. They need close to $1 million dollars. At this point, they have $13,000. The burlesque troupe was able to generate $250.
Kiki Quinn, the troupe’s founder, was raised in a small town.
“I grew up watching my mom get abused by my dad and there were no resources. If the town did have resources, she would have gotten out. I really wish we could have given more and I want people to know the need is always there,” Quinn stated.
According to the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters website, 11,700 women and children resided in a safe-house between April 2009 and March 2010. During that same period, more than 16,000 women and children were turned away.
“In a small town, abuse gets pushed under the rug. If you don’t talk about it, it never happens. But there is always someone who feels they have a right to bully others. There needs to be a cure, ” Quinn added.
The murder of Martel was like a double whammy for Quinn. Martel’s cousin Andrea Cantrell, a former student at St. Albert’s DanceCo, was one of the burlesque troupe’s original dancers.
Cantrell has since stepped away from burlesque to raise two young children in Fort Saskatchewan. She has also adopted a significant role as one of the foundation’s board members.
Hearing the news of her cousin’s murder shocked Cantrell to the core.
“I fell to my knees like I got punched in the stomach. It didn’t seem real. You see it in the movies, but it doesn’t seem it could happen to you. It was surreal,” Cantrell said.
“It’s been three years. I still think about her every day, but being able to help women in light of what happened to my family is one way of making something good come out of something so tragic.”
Already the foundation has pinpointed Sparrow’s Hope in Westlock-Barrhead as a model. It is a safe-house with six bedrooms, a common area and house parents.
“We’d like a place where women and children can go to heal.”
At the moment, the foundation is working closely with St. Albert’s SAIF Society in trying to help women and children receive counseling.
“They’ve been very supportive. They’re just great.”
By December 2012, the foundation will be officially registered as a charity making it easier to raise the much-needed funds. At the moment they are only registered as a foundation.
For additional information visit www.jessicamartelmemorialfoundation.com.