Meet Avery Kazakewicz, your 2020 Ace All Star
Updated Jan. 17, 2020
The Ace Hardware Foundation is thrilled to name Avery Kazakewicz (age 11) of North Strabane Township, Pennsylvania as the organization’s eighth-annual Ace All-Star. Yesterday, the Ace Hardware Foundation and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh surprised Avery at a special event at the barn where she takes horseback riding lessons.
As Ace’s eighth-annual Ace All-Star, Avery will serve as national ambassador for the Ace Foundation, raising awareness for the excellent work that is done at local Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals across the country. Through the support of Ace’s vendor partner Duracell, the Ace Cares for Kids program enables Ace stores to raise funds for their local CMN Hospital using Avery’s incredible story as inspiration.
Two days before her seventh birthday, Avery was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hepatoblastoma, a type of liver cancer. She immediately underwent numerous surgeries and chemotherapy treatments at UPMC Children’s, where it was discovered that most of Avery’s liver was blackened and mottled with cancer.
The tumor on Avery’s liver was so large that it caused her lower abdomen to stick out. It also twisted her stomach, so she had to have a tube inserted down her nose to bypass her stomach and feed nutrients directly to her intestines. The original treatment plan was for seven rounds of chemotherapy, after which it would be determined if her cancer numbers had lowered enough to be placed on the transplant waiting list.
On December 8, 2015, Avery received her liver transplant. In all, she underwent 10 rounds of chemotherapy, a liver transplant, lung surgery and various other treatments and surgeries in order to get to where she is today.
“Avery endured a tremendous amount of treatment with chemotherapy and surgeries, including a liver transplant, and miraculously did so with a smile on her face,” said Avery’s doctor, Brittani Seynnaeve, MD, MS., Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, UPMC Children’s. “Her strength and resilience are remarkable and it has truly been a privilege to care for her and watch her become the smart, feisty and caring young individual that she is today.”
Avery, now a healthy and happy 11-year-old, loves to help other kids that have been in her situation and show them that they too can lead a normal, healthy life. She hopes to one day graduate from college and then become a nurse at UPMC Children’s, as she has seen first-hand how helpful it can be to receive treatment from someone who has experienced what children like her have gone through. Avery is finally starting to get back into extracurricular activities following her treatment, and she loves to sing and take horseback riding lessons.
“We are proud to officially welcome Avery into the Ace All-Star family,” said Kane Calamari, President of the Ace Hardware Foundation. “Her bravery and strength in the face of such hardship, along with her perseverance and dedication to helping others, makes her a perfect choice for the 2020 Ace All-Star. Avery and her family will share her story to raise awareness for CMN hospitals and help generate the crucial funding to ensure other children can receive the same life-altering treatments.”
Avery was selected by the Ace Foundation following a nationwide campaign that gave every Children’s Miracle Network Hospital an opportunity to nominate a deserving patient. As the eighth-annual All-Star for the Ace Cares for Kids Program, a $10,000 donation from Duracell will be made to UPMC Children’s in Avery’s honor. In addition, the Kazakewicz family will be treated to an all-expense paid trip to Walt Disney World. Throughout the year, Avery will make special appearances and will be treated to exciting surprises from Ace Hardware.
As a proud supporter of CMN Hospitals, Ace Hardware is dedicated to raising funds for children’s hospitals across the country, including UPMC Children’s. Over the past 28 years, the Ace Foundation has raised more than $120 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.