‘God girl’ goes home; 11-year-old dies in Whitewater crash

By Vicky Wedig and Alexandrea Dahlstrom

SLN Staff

The last time Bridget McCarthy saw her daughter, she was singing – loudly — “jammin’ out” to the

Avery J. McCarthy

Jamie Grace song “God Girl” on the way to school.

When McCarthy dropped the fifth-grader off at Delavan Christian School, Avery McCarthy told her mom, “You know, I really am a God girl.”

The 11-year-old Delavan girl died at the scene of a crash later that day — Oct. 24 — in the Town of Whitewater, according to the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office.

Avery McCarthy was in the back seat of a 2003 Nissan Sentra that deputies said left Highway 89 and struck a utility pole south of Island Road at about 6:15 p.m.

When police arrived on the scene, the driver – Avery McCarthy’s 17-year-old sister, Jadrian Ochoa — had gotten out of the car, but Cierra Yakes, 17, of Darien, who was a passenger in the front seat, and Avery McCarthy were trapped and critically injured. Both were extricated from the car, and Yakes, a senior at Delavan-Darien High School, was flown by helicopter to a hospital, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Her condition was unknown as of press time.

The Walworth County Crash Investigation Unit shut down Highway 89 for about three hours during the crash investigation. The incident remains under investigation.

Delavan Christian School Principal Enno Haan said McCarthy could “light up the room.” He said she was very energetic and loved to learn.

Haan said McCarthy’s death is a major loss at the 103-student school that closed Monday for the girl’s funeral.

“The school is small and we are more like brothers and sisters here,” he said. “The loss is felt by everyone.”

Haan said the church, which holds 600 people, was packed for McCarthy’s funeral with people standing in the sanctuary and others accommodated in the church basement with the service streamed on a television monitor.

Bridget McCarthy said the large attendance at her daughter’s funeral, and the visitation the night before was comforting.

“It really put me at peace,” she said.

McCarthy’s passing is the first loss of a student Delavan Christian School has had in its 60 years of existence and the first loss of a current student in Haan’s 30 years as a teacher, he said.

Haan said McCarthy liked sports and participated in volleyball, basketball and gymnastics. He also said she had a flair for theater and drama. Haan said McCarthy was a positive and bubbly person who loved the Lord.

“If Avery saw another student hurting, she helped. That’s just how she was,” Haan said.

Bridget McCarthy said her daughter was always helpful and kind. She put kits together for the people of Joplin, Mo., after the tornado there and raised money for people in Haiti after its earthquake. Recently, she made pink lemonade cookies and had a list of people to drop them off to, Bridget McCarthy said.

She said Avery McCarthy played piano, did gymnastics with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Gymhawks, was a member of the Walworth County Cloggers, liked horseback riding and had started learning to play the trombone.

McCarthy said Avery loved to go to the Fontana beach with McCarthy’s fiance, Matt Vavra, whom she adored. So, for Delavan Christian School’s annual auction, Avery McCarthy wanted to donate four season passes to the beach. After her passing, other people added to her donation — collecting other beach items including sand toys and a night’s stay at Lake Lawn Resort. The result was a beach basket that sold for $2,500 at the school’s fundraiser Saturday.

Haan recalled his last class with McCarthy when she came into the room singing, “I’m a God girl, that’s who I’ll be from the top of my head to the soles of my feet.”

The strength of Avery McCarthy’s faith was apparent to people acquainted with her, Bridget McCarthy said.

“If you knew her … she was so in love with God,” she said.

Bridget McCarthy said she recently found her daughter still awake in her room after 9:30 p.m. When she went to tell Avery McCarthy to go to sleep, she found her reading the Book of Revelations. Bridget McCarthy said she warned the 11-year-old the passages could give her nightmares, but Avery McCarthy explained to her mother that the Book of Revelations is about heaven and finding peace.

Bridget McCarthy said she now believes that conversation was God’s way of preparing Avery’s heart – and her mother’s – for her passing.

“Right now I’m OK,” Bridget McCarthy said Monday after the luncheon following her daughter’s funeral. “But 27 seconds from now I might not be.”

McCarthy asked for continued prayer for Avery’s family, especially for the emotional healing of her sister, Jadrian. She also is survived by a 3-year-old brother, Brody, Vavra and her father, Scott Reese, of Delavan.

“We do not underestimate the power of prayer,” she said.

Friends and family are encouraged to bring the McCarthy family a meal through “Take Them a Meal” website. Friends and family are asked to sign up online and post what day they would like to bring a meal and what the meal will be. Those wishing to participate can contact meal coordinator Stacy Warner at 203-3462 or visit http://www.takethemameal.com/meals.php?t=OLYG7416. 


  1. What a lovely tribute to our God’s Girl, she has touched the hearts of many people especially all of the relatives over here in Australia. Unfortunately I never got to meet her personally but chatted to her regularly and felt as though she was close by.
    RIP God’s Angel <3

  2. I live a lot closer and never had the opportunity to meet this wonderful child so full of God and his wisdom, but I did know and work with her mother Bridget and not surprised by the stories, because she was a chip off the old block so to speak. We can only hope we have even a little of the strength they are showing and be there for all, especially Jadrian, as we live on, when we are not sure why what happened, happened.

  3. I am so sorry for your Loss. I will continue to Pray for your Family and the other young ladies that were in the Vehicle. I will say an extra special Prayer for her sister and I hope she does not feel guilty. God needed another Angel by his side. . May The Lord heal your pain. God Bless.

  4. I am praying for this family. God will give them peace. What a tragic loss for the family, but I know Avery is rejoicing in heaven. Lord, please please give her sister peace and comfort.

  5. poor thing. Im very sorry for the loss, and ill pray for the family. god will bless:)

  6. I knew Avery and I love this article so much. Avery was one of my friends. Avery was such a God girl, her favorite color was purple, she liked horse-back riding, she clogged, she did gymnastics, and most importantly she was the most faithful, God fearing little girl you and I will ever meet or if you never met her, know of. Avery really looked up to me and I know I let her down. I think she started to look up to me in volleyball. It was her first year playing volleyball, 5th grade 10 years old, me in 8th grade 13 years old. I helped and tried to encourage all the new coming volleyball girls and was Avery’s bumping partner once or twice but usually picked the girls my age who were more experienced for bumping partners. Of course I didn’t think anything of it at the time because the new coming volleyball girls were all pretty much at the same level. They were all VERY good for new comers though. I had a hard time believing Avery was a newcomer the first time I saw her play because she was SO much better than what I was when I was a newcomer… of course I SUCKED when I was a newcomer. I would always tell her and the other newcomers “hey if you think you guys are bad you guys should have seen me when I was a newcomer.” It would usually get almost all of them or all of them to laugh. At the end of volleyball season we had won one maybe two or three games, the A and B team were combined because… well that’s just how small our school is. Once Avery had asked me for my phone number… I never got to give it to her because… well I wish I had a good excuse but I don’t. She had asked me at the end of the day for my phone number and my dad got there, she didn’t have her phone out and ready so I said I had to go and just left… just like that. I don’t know if I could have been any meaner there. I could have had her give me her phone number so many times after that, because she would always come by my locker during break. While I was eating and sharing my snack with her and the other 5th grade girls that still do come down and visit me. We were always against the wall RIGHT next to my locker and my phone was and still is ALWAYS with me. But it’s like EVERYONE and EVERYTHING says treat every day like it’s your last because you don’t know when it IS your last… or in this case someone else’s last. B.( I miss you SOOOOOOOOOO much Avery, I love you, and I can wait until the day we meet again but at the same time I can’t. I can wait because I’m only in 8th grade and if I’m still here God’s not done with me yet. I can’t wait because I miss you so much and I can’t wait to meet my Abba (Daddy)! May God bless all and may this article touch everyone who reads the article and hopefully what I have written, may it touch their hearts. B ) May God bless all!

  7. I know that the comment before this one is VERY long but if you had the time to read the article I want you to read the comment before this one because it tells you more about Avery and how amazing she was! May God bless all! B )

  8. I live in South Africa, I was listening to Jamie Grace’s song Ready to fly and wondered why I love it sooo much… Then I did some research on Avery… What an inspiring young lady. To her family and sisters God has a special plan rest in His love and Faithfullness, she knew her Father and is within Him now, God is also with you now holding you in His arms of Love trust Him, live in the legacy… Be that God girl. God bless you!

  9. I just read her story after listening to Jamie Grace, Avery has truly taught me that life is never promised but while your hear we should look to the one we love and praise him and thank him for everything he has given us. Thank You Avery. You will be greatly missed.