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Festival, poker run focuses on empowering women and raising funds for local woman fighting cancer

Posted on Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Jodi Martin is fighting Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. EMPOWER Festival organizers are raising money to help the former Trevilians Elementary School instructional assistant, who can longer work, while she fights the disease. Photo courtesy of festival organizers

A fundraising event on Saturday will benefit a former Louisa County Public Schools employee who can no longer work as a result of her Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Jodi Martin, a beloved special education instructional assistant at Trevilians Elementary School, underwent chemotherapy in 2014 after being diagnosed with the disease. Through this arduous process, she lost her appetite, energy, hair, as well as her ability to sleep or function at work.

“My immune system became non-existent, so working around children was a great risk for me,” she wrote on the organization’s social media site.

While undergoing a cycle of treatments, the single mom continued raising her two teenagers and taking care of everyday chores as best she could. She is appreciative of others who pitched in and supported her during the initial process until she went into remission.

“Sadly, I am no longer in remission and am now Stage 4,” Martin said on the organization’s social media site.

The latest staging classification means that the lymphoma has spread widely into at least one organ outside the lymph system. Martin’s medical team wants her to manage symptoms for the time being to avoid having to go through chemotherapy so soon after the first round of treatments.

Doctors have placed Martin on “wait and watch” mode while she manages symptoms to postpone the harsh chemotherapy process as long as possible.

“I pride myself on holding my head up and keeping a smile on my face,” Martin said. “I will not let this get the best of me.”

It is precisely that attitude that Sharon Baker-Evans admires most in Martin.

“She’s been there for everyone,” Baker-Evans said. “She’s one of the strongest women I know and an amazing woman.”

Baker-Evans and Crystal Stoneman, with help from others in the community, organized the EMPOWER Festival as a way to support local women and raise funds to help those who are facing a hardship, whether it’s due to illness, escaping domestic violence, the death of a spouse or child or other life altering event.

The EMPOWER festival, said Baker-Evans, primarily focuses on promoting awareness of domestic violence. Other organizations will be at the festival including Wings of Courage, another local group that promotes awareness of domestic violence.

“The sad part is it’s such a widespread occurrence, that even to this day and age, people don’t want to talk about it,” Baker-Evans said. “It happens in everyday life and it doesn’t matter what your status is. Some are better at hiding it than others.”

Many women in Louisa County face the specter of domestic violence daily, and others have lost their lives as a result. Baker-Evans said she has known two local women who were murdered in recent years as a result of domestic violence—Rhonda Rowe in 2014 and Carol Setchfield, who died in 2012.

“To have known them in the moment, if you weren’t their confidant, you wouldn’t have known it,” Baker-Evans said. “They were strong women.”

In addition, domestic violence impacts others in the family, especially children, she explained. The cycle can be tragic.

“It’s not going to stop until people start stepping up,” she said.

And while Jodi Martin’s specific situation has nothing in common with domestic violence, EMPOWER organizers wanted to support a fellow woman’s needs.

“She’s a single mom and great lady. She can’t work,” Baker-Evans said. “Come out and support her. She’s one of our own. There are local women right here in Louisa who need help whether it’s an illness or escaping domestic violence.”

The first EMPOWER Festival will get underway at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 15 at the Louisa Firemen’s Fairgrounds and runs through 5 p.m.

Poker run participants, however, will get an earlier start. Registration for the poker run begins at 8:15 a.m. The first bikes will take off at 9:30 a.m. and the last group of motorcycles are due back at the fairgrounds around 1 p.m.

The festival offers live music by the Maxx 51 Band and Erika Wright Music, a variety of food for purchase, an array of vendors, kids’ activities and a 1 p.m. corn hole tournament.

Vendors should email; to volunteer, make a donation or provide music, email; and for information about the poker run, email See flyer here.