Coach Tom Coughlin understands what it takes to be a champion: strength, determination, courage and perseverance. We at the Jay Fund know that no one embodies those characteristics more than Ava. However, over the past several months, we learned that even champions need help sometimes.
Ava was just seven when Hurricane Sandy hit, and it devastated her community. As you can imagine, Ava’s leukemia diagnosis – which occurred in the middle of Sandy’s aftermath – had the potential to be even more devastating. However, Ava began to fight, and quickly showed everyone that she had the heart of a champion. Coach Coughlin had a chance to meet her – and get a glimpse of the champion’s heart – when she visited a NY Giants’ practice in December of 2012.
Ava, along with her mom Samantha, decided to tackle every obstacle Ava encountered together, and during the process, they’d write poems to remind each other of the healing power of laughter. Throughout 2013, the poems just kept coming, and they eventually came together in a book called Laughter is the Best Medicine. As described on the first page, “[Ava] hopes that it will ease the fears of other newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patients”. Here’s one of the poems, “My Pop with No Top”.
My Pop with No Top
I have a Pop with no hair on his top.
He lost it long ago.
Before I was born, there was a big storm.
Away his hair did blow.
But I never cared, nor was I scared
of my Pop with his shiny bald head.
But as I sit in my room, my heart fills with gloom.
Losing my hair to cancer, I dread.
Will my friends laugh? Will my brothers tease me?
The entire thing makes me quite queasy!
Then, I think of my Pop and
how I love his round top.
Yes, I finally understand!
It’s not the hair on my head that makes me so grand!
I’m smart and I’m fun!
To my friends and family, I’m number 1.
They really don’t care about my hair.
It’s me they love, not what’s above.
So if my hair should go, I’ll just smile ’cause I know
I’ll still be as cool as my Pop with no top.
Due to the nature of her treatment, Ava did indeed lose her hair. And as she wondered in the poem, she did get teased by classmates. For an eight-year-old, even one with an outlook as great as Ava’s, the insults really began to hurt – especially when a group of kids told her she looked ‘like a boy’. Thankfully, a family friend came to us and asked if there was any way we could #BeThere for Ava. We jumped at the chance, and we were able to purchase a wig for her. Now, Ava can choose whether she wants “a top” or not whenever she wants!
These days, Ava is still undergoing treatment, but the family is confident that she’s going to win her battle. In the meantime, she’s focused on her goal of seeing her book on the shelves of every hospital gift shop in the country so that she can bring smiles to other pediatric cancer patients and donate a huge check to help find a cure. She’s also into helping other champions – as a cheerleader! To find out more, visit their website or become a fan on Facebook.
Help a Champion…By Becoming One!
At the Jay Fund, we rely on champions everywhere who, through their donations, allow us to #BeThere for families so they can #BeThere for their children. Please help us continue to complete this mission.