After Bridget Crock was diagnosed with pleuropulmonary blastoma in October 2008 at the age of two, the community rallied around the little girl and her family, turning out in droves for benefits and delivering food to their home.
Waterford resident Traci Nichols and Bridget's mom, Desni Crock, of Marietta, have mutual friends and Traci was often among those who attended the various events held for Bridget. She even sang at one of them.
"I can't imagine having a child going through this," she once told Crock.
ASHLEY RITTENHOUSE The Marietta Times
Bridget Crock, left, Ava Nichols, center, and Ava’s mom Traci Nichols, right, interact with Bridget’s cat, Lambert, at Bridget’s home in Marietta Sunday. Friends of the girls’ families have come together to form an organization called BrAva, which aims to benefit children with cancer.
Then the unthinkable happened.
In March of last year, Nichols' 4-year-old daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Since that time, multiple benefits have been held for the Nichols family and a Facebook group called "Love and Prayers for Miss Ava Nichols" has more than 12,000 members.
Now, in an effort to help others who have a child who is battling cancer, friends of the girls' families have put together an organization called BrAva. They're currently in the process of getting non-profit status for the organization.
BrAva 5k run/walk
- When: registration begins at 8 a.m. and the race starts at 10 a.m. Sept. 24. There will also be concessions, kids games, a country store and more through 4 p.m.
- Where: Masonic Park, Devola.
- Cost: $15 per person if registration form is received by Sept. 10; $20 per person if registration form is received after Sept. 10.
- Registration form is available on the "BrAva Fight" page on Facebook and at the Advantage Real Estate office, 228 Pike St., Marietta.
For more information, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Desni Crock at 740-434-5442.
Girls Night Out scavenger hunt
- When: registration is 6 to 7 p.m. and the hunt will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday
- Where: begins at Marietta Brewing Company, 167 Front St., Marietta
- Cost: $50 for teams of four or five; proceeds go to BrAva
Members of BrAva are holding a 5k run/walk Sept. 24. Proceeds from it will be split between a local family with a child who has cancer and CureSearch for Children's Cancer, an organization that funds and supports children' cancer research and provides information and resources to those affected by children's cancer.
"We figured that would be a wonderful opportunity for people who are close to and care about Ava and Bridget to contribute to both kinds of cancer," said Desni Crock.
The 5k run/walk will be held at Masonic Park and concessions, kids games and a country store are planned as part of the event. Crock said for $100 a sponsor can get their name on shirts that will be handed out, and there are already about 20 sponsors. She said donations for the country store have been coming in steadily.
One of the organizers, Marietta resident Elizabeth Ault, said "donations of any kind" are welcomed.
"If people want to donate to the country store or want to show up on the day of and volunteer their time, we're always looking for more volunteers," Ault said.
Ault added that this year's 5k run/walk is only the first of many the group hopes to hold. Additionally, it plans to hold a "Girls Night Out" scavenger hunt Friday, which will start at the Marietta Brewing Company.
"We're going to try to pick a different family each year to donate a lot of the proceeds to," she said.
Crock said while the group does have a family in mind it would like to donate to, that information is not yet being released publicly.
"Traci and I are pretty adamant about giving back to the community any way we can because they've given to our children so much," Crock said.
Bridget, who will celebrate her fifth birthday Aug. 22, is currently cancer free and excited to start preschool this fall. She has scans every six months just to make sure everything is still normal, with her next scans scheduled for this week.
Ava, who will turn 6 on Aug. 26, is getting chemotherapy at home every day, Traci Nichols said.
In early May, although scans revealed that the tumor was getting larger, there was no physical regression in Ava whatsoever. At that point she was able to play and talk, just like any other child.
But in mid-May, Ava suffered a stroke, followed by a few seizures, and she spent 14 days in Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. That happened not too long after she led the first lap at the Relay for Life of Washington County in Belpre. Traci Nichols called it an "absolutely huge" setback.
Nichols said the stroke left Ava unable to talk and she "literally lost control of everything," but she's "progressing very slowly" now. Just a few weeks ago, a feeding tube was removed from her and she was taken off steroids, but she cannot hold her head up without assistance, nor can she walk.
Nichols said no one - including doctors - saw the stroke coming.
"The arteries in her neck were getting blocked off," Nichols said. "When we went in, one of four arteries were blocked off and by the time we left (children's hospital) three of four were blocked."
Prior to the stroke, Ava had been getting scans done at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn every two to three months.
Traci Nichols said she hasn't had any scans since the stroke because they require her to be sedated. While under sedation, her blood pressure could drop dangerously low, causing another stroke. Traci and Ava's dad, David, will have to decide in November whether or not to get scans done.
"As much as we want to know what's going on in there, it's not worth the risk," Traci Nichols said.
For now, a nurse from Interim HealthCare visits the Nichols' home once a week to do bloodwork on Ava.
Although she cannot speak, Ava laughs heartily, especially when she hears her dog's paws on the ground.
"Her fifth birthday was such a big deal because we didn't know if we'd have it and now we're getting ready to celebrate her sixth, so we're ecstatic," Traci Nichols said. "I still have almost 13,000 people on Facebook that are praying for her and it's because of things like that, that we still have our faith. If you go by doctors, she shouldn't still be here."