Bald Eagle

On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Funds sought to modify minivan, help little girl’s family

Ava Lauzon, 8, is a Wingate Elementary School student from Julian.
Ava Lauzon, 8, is a Wingate Elementary School student from Julian. Photo provided

Roseann Lauzon needed answers, any kind of reassurance to dry her tears.

Doctors had none.

Her daughter, Ava, had suffered brain damage from blood clots and a stroke at age 3. It showed on the little girl’s MRI scan: dark areas in the cortex and frontal lobes, patches of loss.

Less clear was Ava’s prognosis.

Two brain surgeries had removed a pair of clots. She suffered from two blood clotting disorders. Nobody could say for certain what lay ahead for her.

The scene unfolded five years ago in a New Britain, Conn., hospital. It might as well have been yesterday for Lauzon.

“I can remember sitting there and crying and saying, ‘What do you mean you don’t know? You’re the doctors. You’re supposed to know these things,’ ” Lauzon said.

Ava’s now 8, a Wingate Elementary School student living in Julian with her parents, twin sister Arri and younger brother R.J. She can’t walk unaided or talk; seizures remain a threat.

But she’s making progress with a walker, and her sunny personality and killer smile dazzle anyone she meets.

She’s also growing normally — the reason for an ongoing fundraiser.

Her mother can’t lift her from her wheelchair into her car seat in the family’s 2010 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. The car isn’t handicapped-accessible.

That means that these days, when Andy Lauzon is at work as the general manager of the America’s Best store in Altoona, his family is stuck.

“I can’t take all three kids out,” Roseann Lauzon said. “It’s impossible to get her in the car.”

Adding a ramp and other modifications would solve the problem — if only the family had a spare $20,000 or so. But money’s tight.

Ava’s medical bills, even with secondary insurance, soak up household funds. So do special instruction and therapy for R.J., 7, who’s autistic.

At first, Lauzon hesitated to ask for help. It’s hard these days for many to make donations, she thought. Time passed; her frustration grew. She plunged ahead.

On the free fundraising site, she started the “Ava’s Fight” campaign for donations to modify the family minivan.

“Just to be able to drive out to parks, do things as a family as a whole, have more fun and that type of stuff,” she said. “Right now, we’re stranded. We don’t have the ability to take her out with all three kids.”

As of Tuesday, with 66 days left, the campaign had raised $1,410. Lauzon holds out hope that enough donors can help Ava some day ride with her siblings.

“To have that done, it would just open up a lot of doors for us as a family,” Lauzon said.

Trudee Sauer, of Asheville, N.C., has been trying on social media to spread the word about her childhood friend from Bristol, Conn.

“Her hands are so full,” Sauer said of Lauzon. “I can’t even imagine. Her plate is so overflowing with so much that she has to do.”

Sauer said Andy Lauzon is “supporting the family as much as he possibly can,” but Ava’s medical issues and R.J.’s needs are daunting.

“They are a beautiful family,” Sauer said. “They are so deserving. Any help, any way to get the word out, to try to get them what they need to help their family, would be a godsend.”

The Lauzons already have three, but one’s a special case.

She’s a tough bundle, a fighter to the core. Brain surgery? Had it. A plate in her forehead to stabilize her skull growth? Got it. More recovery?

She’ll get to it.

“She’s just a wonderful spirit,” Roseann Lauzon said. “She’s just a miracle. I can’t explain it better than that. I’m just so happy she’s here with us.”