STANTON, MICH. - A couple hundred people, that's what Shelly Esch expected.
Esch decided to hold a fundraiser for Paul and Judith Martin about a month ago. Just a month before the Martin family were riding in their horse and buggy to Sunday worship when a pickup truck hit them from behind.
The tragic accident led to the loss of three of their seven children.
Esch did not know the family personally, she still doesn't, but she says someday soon she will finally meet them.
"I will meet them someday. Someday when they are better, I will finally meet them."
The Martin's surviving children are doing better and Paul was just recently able to return home, but Judith still remains hospitalized.
The community has surrounded the Martin family in the time since the accident, and Saturday, Dec. 9 was no different.
Esch said within two hours of the event, they had surpassed their expectation of several hundred people.
The fundraiser was held at Cental Michigan's Sportsman Club, the club donated their space for the event.
The entire hall was filled with people who paid to eat the tons of mostly donated food. Beyond the filled hall was a line that extended into the packed parking lot.
Many of those waiting in line traveled to Stanton solely to attend this event, and many of those people, like Esch, do not personally know the Martin family.
"I just heard the story -- and it was so tragic," said Jerry Stalter, of Palo, Michigan.
Big L's Lumber presented a $20,000 check made up of donations from people throughout the community. While others trucked in tons of donations for a live auction.
"It really brings tears to your eyes, knowing how thoughtful this community is," Stalter said.
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