Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Evanston family organizes fundraiser to commemorate daughter

By the time Ava LaVere was 5 years old, she had undergone four heart surgeries. Last June she died from congenital heart disease.

This June, Ava’s Giving Tree, a non-profit organization her family created to help fight congenital heart disease, will host its second fundraiser at the Edison Park Inn, 6715 N. Olmstead Ave., in Chicago.

“Ava’s life has been a gift to all of us,” said Jennifer LaVere, Ava’s mother, in a news release. “She was a wellspring of joy and affection to everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. We plan to honor and celebrate her undying spirit through Ava’s Giving Tree.”

Evanston residents Jennifer and John LaVere will donate all proceeds to the Children’s Heart Foundation, the same beneficiary of Northwestern’s Dance Marathon this past March, to fund research for the prevention of the disease that took Ava’s life.

The fundraiser, held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., will feature a raffle, children’s crafts and live music. A silent auction will also be available on avasgivingtree.com a few weeks before the event.

Ava was diagnosed with congenital heart disease before she was born in 2005. From birth, she had two of the four normal chambers in her heart and had her first open heart surgery when she was a week old.

When she was five months old, Ava underwent a second operation, which led to the permanent loss of her hearing. Two years later, she had another surgery, from which she developed post-operative complications.

Last March, Ava needed a heart transplant, but with complications due to her low blood pressure and kidney failure, Ava died June 16, 2010.

Ava’s Giving Tree was founded within a month of Ava’s death to help find a cure to the disease from which the girl suffered.

“We watched my daughter go through all kinds of things, and we felt powerless,” Jennifer LaVere said. “Everyone wished there was something they could do, but when she had her heart transplant and when she passed away in June, everyone felt defeated.”

Last year’s fundraiser, organized in Michigan by Jennifer LaVere’s sister, raised $10,000, and Jennifer LaVere hopes to match that amount this year in Chicago. She said she hopes to see Northwestern students come out to the event, knowing they raised more than $1 million for the Children’s Heart Foundation through DM.

She said she believes more research needs to be done to prevent this disease and that her organization will contribute to that cause.

“I never believed that God wanted her to suffer. He was sending me a message that I needed to do something to help prevent it,” Jennifer LaVere said. “So much heartache and suffering could be avoided if we could find out a little bit more about the disease.”

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Evanston family organizes fundraiser to commemorate daughter