Ava Everhart is pretty much like any other 7-year-old girl. She likes unicorns, reading, gymnastics. She also has cystic fibrosis, and that makes her a little different. But it is her illness, and the way she battles it, that has inspired one of her teachers to raise money to fight the disease.
“She has completely changed my life,” said Jean Little, who a year ago was Ava’s first grade teacher at Greenfield Elementary School. “Ava is very adult-like. I was doing sixth grade work with her in first grade.”
But more than being especially bright, Little said it is Ava’s spirit and her fearless approach to life that has inspired her to plan a cystic fibrosis benefit that will be held from noon to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Old Firehouse Brewery in Williamsburg.
When she first came in contact with Ava, Little said she knew very little about CF. But as Ava drew her in, Little learned that a middle school staff member, a preschool student and a kindergarten student, all in Greenfield, also have CF.
“Ava is one of the top students I ever had to begin with, and I always wanted to do this kind of thing, but never had anything in mind,” Little said.“I was at a cancer awareness thing and I thought, ‘no one is doing anything for cystic fibrosis.’ I thought, ‘You know what, there is no reason we couldn’t do more for them, especially when it affects our teachers and students.’ Someone in our community should be helping.”
According to Little, there is no government funding to help in the battle against CF. She said she is trying to start a campaign where there could be dropoff boxes in Greenfield to raise money to fight the disease.
Ava is the daughter of Jeff and Mindy Everhart. They found out when Ava was just 3 weeks old that she had CF.
“I was devastated. I cried,” Mindy said. “It’s heartbreaking to know your child has a disease there is no cure for.”
But there is another side to the mother/daughter relationship. “She is a true fighter. She is my hero,” Mindy said.
Mindy said she’s been told that Ava’s life expectancy is 30 to 35 years. But she also said technology is improving and that Ava is responding well to new medicine.
“She gets better day to day, but she can’t fight off germs at school or things like that,” Mindy said.
Ava’s dream is to become veterinarian. But for now she loves school, is obsessed with unicorns, and loves gymnastics, her mother said.
“She lets nothing hold her back. She likes just being a typical 7-year-old girl,” Mindy said. “Since she was 2 years old she has been determined to be a veterinarian.”
Maybe it is a flyer being distributed about the Sept. 22 fundraiser that tells Ava’s story best. It says:
“Hi. I’m Ava Everhart, just your average 7-year-old who loves unicorns, reading, gymnastics, drawing, swimming and playing with my big sister. I’m (in the) second grade at Greenfield Elementary School. One thing that is not so average, I was born with cystic fibrosis. You’d never know it from looking at me, but I fight this battle every day. Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system, but can impact all the organs in my body. CF produces a very thick, sticky mucus that fills and hardens throughout the body and traps bacteria that can make it hard to breath. An estimated 30,000 children and adults in the U.S. have CF. A person is born with CF, you cannot catch it from someone.
“My daily routine can be tough. To help clear the mucus from my lungs I must take medicines and do treatments every day. To gain weight, grow bigger and get stronger, I must take enzyme pills every time I eat. Enzymes help my body break down food and absorb the nutrients I need. Because of the mucus, my pancreas doesn’t work so well. I also must use two different inhalers to help keep my lungs clear. Twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed, I use my ‘vest’ machine. This machine shakes my chest to help loosen any mucus that might be stuck. Once it is loosened I cough it out, keeping my lungs clear. I also use a nebulizer machine for another special medicine called Pulmozyme. Other medicines I take include a special multivitamin and a pill to increase my appetite. I’ve been doing most of these things since I was born.
“I dream of a day when I don’t have to do all these treatments. My parents and my doctors tell me we are getting really close. I want to grow older and hope to become a veterinarian someday because I love animals.”
Anyone wanting more information on the fundraiser can call 513-536-9071.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.