Avery, now seven, likely saved her momís life with her early arrival
By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
Eight women and 10 children between the ages of three and 10 camped in a trailer overnight at the Ancaster fairgrounds; dads are on standby should issues arise.
While this scenario might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, the Avery’s Angels Relay for Life team is looking forward to the experience. Captained by Dawn Heap, a cervical cancer survivor, Avery’s Angels are among the teams that will walk the fairgrounds track overnight to raise funds for cancer research.
“We are proud to be walking all night in support of fighting cancer,” said Dawn. “This event is very important to all of us, as we have all lost people to cancer.”
Avery’s Angels primarily consists of moms and friends from St. Joachim school, where Avery is a Grade 1 student. Born on March 18, 2007, three months premature, Avery actually saved her mom’s life with her early arrival. Five weeks after Avery’s birth, Dawn was diagnosed with Stage 2 cervical cancer. For many long hours, days and weeks, tiny Avery fought for life in the NICU at McMaster Children’s Hospital, while mom waged her own battle with chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the Juravinski Cancer Centre.
Seven years later, Dawn is cancer-free and Avery, although she suffers from hydrocephalus, or water in the brain, is a precocious seven-year-old.
“She goes to piano, swims at the Y every week, loves to dance, loves her friends and loves to read...do crafts and, like any typical seven-year-old these days, is obsessed with (the animated Disney movie) Frozen,” said Dawn.
Ironically, Relay for Life is taking place on the very same day seven years ago that Dawn and dad Peter finally brought their beloved bundle of joy home from McMaster. Relay for Life returns to the Ancaster Fairgrounds on Friday, June 20 and follows the same, successful format as in previous years. The 12-hour, overnight event sees teams pitch tents and walk around a track, symbolizing the fact cancer never sleeps.
Throughout the evening, there are games, food and live entertainment. The evening is launched with a survivor lap by those who have beaten the disease.
This year Dawn will be proudly walking the first lap with her father, Brian, who was diagnosed three and a half years ago with esophegal cancer. Dawn said the initial lap, with dad by her side, is probably what she is most looking forward to about the relay.
“When you walk that first lap, it’s almost like remembering every step you took every day you were sick, every day you spent in hospital and every worry that you might not be there the next day, month or year,” said Dawn. “When you finish that lap, it’s like a feeling of, ‘I did it,’ a real sense of accomplishment.”
Avery’s Angels has already received generous assistance from the St. Joachim school community, said Dawn. More than $1,000 has been raised through a special day where students could ditch their school uniforms and wear yellow in exchange for a donation, and a popcorn day with all proceeds going to the relay.
To register, donate or purchase a luminary for Relay for Life Ancaster Dundas please visit www.relayforlife.ca/ancasterdundas or call 905-575-9220.