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Avary's Animals: Little girl's toy drive for the ER benefits littlest patients

Hospital news | Thursday, May 10, 2012
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Contact: Mardi Ford

Pure Philanthropy: 8-year old Avary McCann receives a $200 matching donation from Steve Lyon, human resources manager for Boise Cascade, for stuffed animals for the Emergency Department at Grande Ronde Hospital.

Just 8-years old, Avary McCann waits patiently on the emergency room gurney as some of the more than 200 stuffed animals she has brought with her today are tucked in around her. Her sparkly red shoes and bright blue eyes peek out of the furry pile. Avary smiles shyly for the camera: The photo is a testimony to the truth that no matter how old – one person can still make a difference.

With the help of her parents, Matt and Tina McCann, La Grande, Avary was able to raise enough money to purchase the stuffed animals and donate them to the Grande Ronde Hospital Foundation for children in the Emergency Services Department.

Why did she do it? Because Avary knows firsthand that being given a stuffed animal to hold onto in the emergency room is good for kids. Of the more than 13,000 people who annually visit the Emergency Services Department at Grande Ronde Hospital, one in four of those – or approximately 3,250 – is a child. One of those children is Avary.

Due to a rare metabolic disease, coming down with a childhood fever or everyday virus can become a life-threatening medical condition for Avary, sending her into metabolic crisis if not treated properly. Her family, the ER staff, Dr. Kevin Grayson (Avary's pediatrician) and a metabolic specialist in Seattle all work together as team to anticipate and keep Avary from metabolic crisis.

"We have a great working relationship with the ER. They know the special protocols for Avary’s care and that we can’t rely on normal triage," explains Tina McCann, adding that germ prevention, along with Avary's developing awareness of her body's signals, have kept them out of the ER for months.

That last visit remained particularly vivid for Avary because the ER nurse had casually mentioned the bear she gave her was the only one they had left. That off-hand remark stayed with Avary for nearly a year. When she received $20 as a gift from her grandmother, she told her mother she wanted to use it to start a toy drive for stuffed animals for the Emergency Department.

"This was all her idea – it was all done in good faith. I had actually forgotten that she brought it up after the last time we were in the ER, but she didn't forget," says Tina.

With her parents help, she set a goal of $200, and began spreading the word. Avary hand wrote letters to friends, family and local businesses included a picture and asked them to donate. Avary's efforts were so compelling, she not only more than doubled her $200 goal, but her letter caught the attention of Steve Lyon, human resources manager for Boise Cascade, which happens to be Matt McCann's employer.

"I read the letter and it fit with Boise's donations philosophy of supporting youth-oriented projects in our communities," explained Lyon, adding that although he recognized the McCann name, he did not know Matt's family personally and had no idea of Avary's illness.

"My only thought was that if this project was so meaningful to a little girl like Avary, then it must be meaningful to every little kid," added Lyon. He decided to approach Avary and her parents with an offer for Boise Cascade to match Avary's fundraising goal of $200 as outlined in the letter. Lyon presented the matching grant to Avary, meeting her for the first time at the Hospital the day she delivered more than 200 animals to ER Nurse Manager Rob Shanks.

"This is so cool," Shanks said in response to the gift. "What an awesome little girl. Our supply is usually touch and go. I'm not sure yet where we are going to store these yet – but that's a great thing to have to consider, isn't it?"

When asked what she thinks about her accomplishment, Avary just smiles and says, "It's nice that people helped."

Avary still has the bear that sparked the idea for the drive, but among the stuffed animals who grace her room – including many others from the Hospital ER staff - is it he who holds the honored title of favorite?

"I like him, but my favorite is a cheetah," says Avary softly.