The following article was written by Sammi Wendling of the Lake Geneva Regional News on May 17, 2017
FONTANA — As a faith-filled child, Avery McCarthy loved God and focused her life on finding ways to help people feel less alone or afraid. Those who knew her said she adored telling others about Jesus.
Bridget McCarthy, Avery’s mother, said her daughter was passionate about finding ways to assist children in Haiti.
Avery was killed instantly in a car accident four and a half years ago. She was 11.
But while Avery is gone, her mission still lives on.
McCarthy, in her daughter’s honor, has spent the last 4 1/2 years building Averyday Ministries, which raises funds for mission trips and is building a home for girls in Haiti.
Faced with a decision
McCarthy said her daughter’s tenacious plan to assist Haiti children wasn’t fully understood until she was gone.
“When she died, I realized all the plans that she had were good ones, and I felt sad that they weren’t going to happen,” McCarthy said. “But then I said, ‘wait a second. She paved the way and she showed us what was important.’ And it was up to us to decide if we wanted to continue that or not.”
Avery’s goal was to get others to join the journey of good will.
“She didn’t just want to tell people about Jesus, she wanted to tell other people about Jesus and have others tell people about Jesus,” McCarthy said. “She wanted to help people in Haiti, but not just by herself. She wanted everyone to join in.”
After Avery’s passing, McCarthy said she was faced with a decision.
“There was a point where I realized that all of her ambitions could have died with her, or we could pick up the pieces and continue,” she said.
McCarthy, despite her grief, held a Christian concert in honor of Avery soon after the accident, with the help of her friend, Ginger Leyda.
That concert became the foundation for Averyday Ministries.
“We formed the organization and became an official nonprofit, but it started with the first concert,” Leyda said. “She was a friend who needed help and I thought I could help her.”
The nonprofit focuses on gathering funds for mission trips to Haiti and supports ministers already in the third-world country.
It also is halfway done building The Avery House in Haiti, a home for young girls.
“It’s not just finding the property and building it, it’s being able to also continue to provide food, safe water, continued education fees and school uniforms, teaching them business skills (and) providing medical care,” she said.
Often, these girls have between a 6th to 8th grade education level and have little marketable skills, McCarthy said.
Many will end up in the homes of abusive men or in the sex industry to make ends meet.
Which is why McCarthy said The Avery House is especially important.
“I might not be able to take care of my own daughter anymore, but I do have the ability to help care for someone else’s,” she said. “These girls need our love and our protection and they deserve a future.”
Averyday Ministries also supports programs that Avery was passionate about when she was alive, like the Delavan Christian School, a free library and the UW-Whitewater Gymhawks, a youth gymnastics program.
At first, McCarthy had no intention of visiting Haiti.
“I had no desire to go, and didn’t even know where it was,” McCarthy said. “The whole time she was alive, I didn’t look at a map once. It was something she was constantly talking about, and you take that for granted … but when she passed and we started the program, my thought was that we were going to raise funds so others would go to Haiti.”
However, things changed after an unexpected phone call from a woman going to Haiti, who told McCarthy she was compelled to invite her on the trip.
“I said that I don’t go, I just give money for others to go,” McCarthy said. “But this woman said she felt she was supposed to ask me to go on this trip, and I told her I would pray on it and if God wants me to go, he will find a way.”
McCarthy soon found out the deadline was the next morning. Still hesitant, she called the group leader who immediately said ‘yes.’
“I walked into it thinking, ‘I have never been to this church before’ and ‘I don’t know who these people are,’” she said. “I was thinking, ‘this is ridiculous, what am I doing?’ But I walked in and all these people were people who were tied to Avery in a way.”
From a parent whose daughter went to daycare with Avery to a group leader who had met Avery, everyone on the trip had been touched by the 11-year-old.
“We called it the ‘Avery Trip’ because everyone who went was connected to Avery somehow,” she said. “Here’s this trip that I wasn’t interested in, and everyone there had a connection. I was overwhelmed.”
Since then, McCarthy has visited Haiti more than six times in the past four and a half years.
Continuing the mission
Leyda said that the continued growth of Averyday Ministries allows McCarthy to give a voice for her daughter.
“Her mission is to make people aware that kids can make a difference,” Leyda said. “Whether it is in your local community or whether it is in a little community in Haiti, just little things we can do to help each other and be thankful. And I think that is her mission — to empower ourselves and others and to keep Avery’s spirit of giving and generosity and thoughtfulness alive.”
And there are no signs of slowing down.
The nonprofit is hosting a concert at the Young Auditorium in Whitewater on Friday, May 26 at 7 p.m. Christian signer and songwriter JJ Heller will perform.
Tickets for the concert are $12 and can be purchased by calling (262)-472-2222.
“The concert is so important because I think this is Avery’s chance to get everyone in a seat together and hear about what she loved — and that is Jesus,” McCarthy said. “She wanted people to have fun, she loved music and this is what we do to continue it.”
The concert is a reminder for people who may be suffering, she added.
“You can grow something really beautiful out of something that, at first, appears ugly,” she said. “And so, for other families out there who are going through something hard, this is an example of ‘’you don’t have to be in this dark pit that you are left in.’ You can grow something beautiful from this.”