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OREM — The family of a Utah County woman who died during childbirth has received a tremendous outpouring of support from Utahns and people around the country.
Katrina Lawrence died on May 6 while giving birth to her sixth child, her son Jett Li. Since then her story has touched many people who never knew or met her. Friends and family said her story inspired more than 17,000 on Facebook and reached nearly half a million on ksl.com. Roughly 3,000 people attended her funeral on May 11.
"How often do you hear about a mom dying in childbirth," said Anne Lee, organizer Viking CrossFit Fundraiser. "It doesn't happen anymore."
Anne and Katrina met at the Viking CrossFit gym in Orem over two years ago. They quickly became friends and worked out together often. She came to know and love Katrina and her husband Justus. She said the couple was extremely generous.
"They're so eager to put others first and to help others first," Lee said.
After Katrina's death, Lee said a group of the couple's friends decided to organize some fundraisers to defray the costs of medical bills the family incurred during Katrina's month-long bed rest in the hospital during the last days of her pregnancy.
The Lawrence family said Katrina had placenta previa and accreta. She had a team of several doctors monitoring her condition daily. Her son Jett Li was due to be born June 15, but she began to hemorrhage on May 6 and died that afternoon. Jett Li has spent the last few weeks in the NICU and left the hospital Tuesday.
Lee said Justus and Katrina did not have insurance so the financial burden on the couple will be great.
"I'll donate my time and my resources ‘til I'm blue in the face," Lee said. "If that means that he's going to be able to be there for those kids a little bit more."
Lee said as they began organizing fundraisers, CrossFit gyms across the country began creating a "Katrina" workout to raise money for the Lawrence family. Soon checks began arriving to support Justus and the six kids Katrina left behind.
"People are falling over themselves to donate things," said Lee.
Lee said businesses all over Utah have donated products and services to be auctioned at a fundraiser at CrossFit Gym in Orem Saturday. Lee said it's a fitting gesture because Katrina loved to have a party and she was everyone's cheerleader.
"She just made you feel like you're the best out there at what you're doing," said Lee. "And that doesn't happen often."
Many Utahans have come to know and love the Lawrence Family through the Bobby Lawrence Karate Studios across Utah. Justus Lawrence owns the studio in Orem. Since his wife's death, he hasn't been able to teach classes there. However, people have been volunteering their time and services to keep the studio running.
Longtime friend Jeff Vincent said he's known Justus and Katrina since they began dating over 15 years ago at the Bobby Lawrence Karate Studio in Orem, where Katrina was a student. He said she's always been a good friend to him.
She always wore a big bow in her hair and someone said 'It's no wonder she did that because she was a gift to everyone, a gift to this world.'
–Jeff Vincent, friend and franchise owner
"Live life to the point that if someone talked bad about you, no one would believe it," said Jeff Vincent, franchise owner, Bobby Lawrence Karate Studio, West Jordan. "And that's totally Katrina."
Vincent said over the years, thousands of students have studied at Bobby Lawrence Karate Studios across Utah. Vincent said people remember the influence and impact Justus and Katrina Lawrence had on their lives. He said Katrina was vital to her family's karate operation because once you met her, you instantly loved her.
"I met her only a couple of times and she was such a sweet lady," said Tristyn Hamel, Karate Student, Bobby Lawrence Karate Studio, West Jordan.
The school is not just a place for an after-school sport for neighborhood kids. Students are considered family and they learn life skills, like service.
In the past, the Bobby Lawrence "karate family" has done kicks to raise money for families in need. Wednesday and Thursday this week, hundreds of students at 10 Bobby Lawrence studios across the state will dedicate 1,000 kicks each to raise money for the family Katrina Lawrence left behind.
"Wherever she was, whether it was at church or in her family or in some sort of activity," Vincent said. "Or group of some sort, she's made really strong bonds and friendships."
Friends and family said Katrina was a great mom - everyone's cheerleader.
"She always had a compliment in her back pocket to pay somebody," Vincent said. "She always wore a big bow in her hair and someone said ‘it's no wonder she did that because she was a gift to everyone, a gift to this world.'"
Now, many in Utah and around the country, who have never met Katrina, are rallying to raise money to support her family. Friends and family say, they're only doing exactly what Katrina would do - finding ways to help those in need.
If you want to participate in Katrina Lawrence fundraisers go to www.officialteamkatrina.com.