On July 24, 1996, Holly J. Udy-Meekin gave birth to her daughter, Jasmine Lee Meekin, at Phoenix Baptist Hospital. Because she was premature, baby Jasmine was flown via helicopter to St. Joseph’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Even though she was gaining weight and doing well, her immune system was not strong enough to fight off the infection that took her life after only nine days. The doctors were never able to answer why she arrived early, nor where the infection came from.
“I can truly say that it was by far the worst pain that I have ever felt, and my perspective on life has been forever changed,” Udy-Meekin says. “I’ve also gained an understanding and empathy for the grieving process that I had previously not even imagined. Even after you make it past the initial all-consuming stages, you hit these emotional land mines that reopen the flood of tears. The holidays can be the worst, which brings me to the Jasmine Fund.”
As the first Christmas approached after Jasmine’s passing, Udy-Meekin started to think about all the presents she and her husband would have bought for her. “So I decided that in her honor, I would purchase some toys and bring them to the St. Vincent De Paul’s Family Center down on Watkins and 7th Avenue,” Udy-Meekin recalls.
At the time, she was a teacher at the Phoenix Arthur Murray Dance Studio, and the owners, teachers and students had all been very supportive. When she shared her idea of donating the toys that would’ve gone to Jasmine to the shelter, she received an overwhelming response.
“Many people brought in toys, and some gave me money to add to my toy ‘power shopping’ excursion,” Udy-Meekin says. “When I took everything over to the shelter, they were surprised that it came from a ballroom dance studio.”
The Jasmine Fund has been going strong now for 20 years. Udy-Meekin’s now 17-year-old son, and 14-year-old daughter have been helping her shop since they were little, in memory of their sister.
“It’s not a huge charity, but it’s our way of remembering Jasmine and giving back.”
Udy-Meekin and her supporters collect donations in November and December, then deliver the toys just before the St. Vincent De Paul’s Family Center annual Christmas Party. If you would like to donate, you can drop off a new, unwrapped toy or a donation check made out to Holly Meekin (not tax deductible) at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio located at 1210 E. Indian School Road, by no later than Friday, Dec. 12. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.