For Avery White, it started out as a project in high school for a new class called Growth, Goals and Grit.
Avery set a goal to personally raise $5,000 for Ability New Brunswick within a few months. She wasn’t sure why that number or even how she’d accomplish it – she had never fundraised before.
And so began a three-year journey in which the young Fredericton woman would raise nearly six times that original goal.
“I never expected it to become that big,” says Avery, now a third-year sociology student at Mount Allison University in Sackville. “To be at more than $29,000 today is so crazy to me – I can’t even believe it.”
Avery was first introduced to Ability New Brunswick at age 11 by her uncle, Courtney Keenan, who has served on Ability’s board of directors for nearly 20 years, including as president from 2008 to 2014. As a youngster, Avery often attended events and served as a volunteer.
When the class project came up at Leo Hayes High School in the fall of 2019, she thought her efforts could help get a person in need to get a wheelchair. If she could help even one person face fewer barriers, she felt, all the effort would be worth it.
“When I go out in public, my eyes immediately go to barriers,” says Avery, who is interested in a career in social work and in helping persons with a disability. “When you have someone so close to you in your life affected by those barriers, you notice.”
Her Uncle Courtney, who uses a wheelchair as a result of quadriplegia, says he is humbled by her dedication to helping others.
“It is always pretty amazing when you watch a young person find something that becomes a passion and they run with it,” he says.
Avery wrote appeal letters, staged car washes and other money-raising events with friends, crafted pleas for support on social media, met with business leaders, and convinced the organizers of a car show to donate proceeds of the event.
It was only supposed to be a semester-long project, but Avery kept going as the pandemic threw a wrench in some of her plans. She didn’t stop until earlier this year, and is effusive in her praise of the teachers and friends who helped her – and of her family for advice and support.
“My family has been my rock through these last three years. At times, there was stress and tears – there were times I wasn’t sure how I could do it. It has meant everything to me that they never once doubted me for a second.”
Adds her Uncle Courtney: “It would be a terrific accomplishment for anybody to raise that amount of money and stick with it for that long. But for a young person in high school to stick with it through university – she should be very proud of herself.”