PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

April 7, 2013

Hundreds turn out for Avery Day

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

GROVES — The city of Groves transformed into a sea of pink that would have made Avery Guerra proud.

Pink balloons danced from every street corner on Saturday, and the parking lot at Bruce’s Market Basket, 6001 39th St., was dotted with pink “Avery’s Army” shirts on Saturday, April 6, for Avery Anne Guerra Day.

“Avery had this little jig that she did when she was happy,” said her grandmother, Debbie Broussard, owner of Debbie’s Dance, Etc. “I can just see her doing it today.”

Avery died on July 2, 2008, at age 4, of a staph infection exacerbated by a congenital heart defect that she’d had since birth. Less than a year after her death, Groves Mayor Brad P. Bailey declared April 2, 2009, to be Avery Anne Guerra Day. Every year since, Avery Day has been celebrated with a fundraiser sponsored by Debbie’s Dance. Proceeds benefit the Avery Anne Guerra Foundation, which last year supplied 10 $2,000 scholarships to students at Port Neches-Groves and Memorial High Schools.

Avery’s mother, Jennifer Guerra of Groves, said that “Avery’s Army” has been hard at work for some time now to make the event special.

“Right after Christmas, it’s time to kick it in gear,” she said.

Saturday proved their efforts had paid off. The enticing scent of meat and cotton candy wafted through the air at Bruce’s, as members of Avery’s Army prepared links for the community. Children sported brightly-colored tongues from the snow cones, also being served by Avery’s Army. And everywhere one looked, a bespectacled little girl smiled from buttons that proclaimed, “Avery Anne Guerra: Forever in Our Hearts.”

The biggest attraction seemed to be the dunking booth. Broussard said the Groves Fire Department showed up at 6 a.m. to fill the booth with water so that children could gleefully dunk the adults who were in charge in them.

“Only for Avery would the fire truck come over and fill up the dunking booth,” Broussard said, laughing.

While fun was not in short supply, no one forgot the reason for the day’s events ? not Kayla Higginbotham. Higginbotham grew up taking lessons at Debbie’s Dance, so she was aware of Avery’s cause even before her son Jaxon was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. But when that happened, Avery’s Army was there.

“It means so much to help anybody, but then when it’s one of your own, it really means a lot,” Broussard said.

Jaxon, now 15 months old, underwent surgery in October and has a clean bill of health ? small thanks, his mother said, to Avery’s Army.

“Their donation helped us tremendously,” said Higginbotham, who lives in Port Neches. “I wasn’t working at the time because I was staying home with him. The donation made me able to stay home.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA