Planting seeds of faith

“If everyone knew Jesus, they wouldn’t feel lonely or afraid anymore.”

~Avery Johanna McCarthy

Family starts ministry for girl killed in car crash

By Alexandrea Dahlstrom


On Oct. 24, the Delavan community learned it had lost one of their children. It seemed everybody mourned the 11-year-old girl

they came to know as the “God Girl” after her favorite song by Christian artist Jamie Grace.

Avery Johanna McCarthy, 11, of Delavan, was killed in a car crash Oct. 24 in the Town of Whitewater.

Avery Johanna McCarthy was singing the tune the last morning her mother, Bridget McCarthy, saw her. As Bridget dropped her daughter off at the Delavan Christian School, Avery turned to her mother and said, “You know Mom, I really am a ‘God Girl.'”

Avery was killed later that afternoon in a car crash when the car her sister, Jadrian Ochoa, was driving slid into some gravel and as Jadrian tried to correct the car, it slid into a pole killing Avery and critically injuring the front seat passenger.

According to her mother, Jadrian struggles with the tragedy. Bridget said she hopes people will pray for her to come to terms with the loss and find peace. The sisters were very close. Avery loved it when Jadrian did her hair or the went on their “dates” to Starbucks and Walmart.

Bridget’s fiancé, Matt Vavra, was very close to Avery. She enjoyed hanging out with him and talking about one of Vavra’s favorite topics – sports. She wanted him to coach her school’s fifth- and sixth-grade basketball team. At the time of the request, Vavra was not certain it would work, but today he is the team’s coach.

Avery also left behind her 3-year-old brother, Brody, who tells his mom Avery comes to him in his dreams. Brody says Avery has pink wings and he sometimes asks her, “When Avery is done in heaven can she come back and play with me?” Bridget explains to her son, no, she can’t but they will see her again when they are done on Earth.

Humanity out of tragedy

“Avery just wanted to tell everyone about Jesus,” Bridget said. “She was very clear on her future and wanted to go on mission trips to spread the word of Jesus.”

“If everyone knew Jesus, they wouldn’t feel lonely or afraid anymore,” Avery had said.

Bridget describes Avery as “just Avery.” She was true to herself in every way. She loved to sing and dance. Avery was involved in Warhawks gymnastics, the Walworth County Cloggers, her school’s volleyball team and had a tendency to giggle a lot … and maybe talk too much.

Because of Avery’s passion for life, Bridget and her family started the AVERYday Ministries. The foundation is a pending 501(c) 3 organization with a mission to continue Avery’s path of love, compassion and spreading the love of Jesus.

Bridget describes how the foundation came to be in her blog, “Stumbling Towards Perfect” (

“What if we found a way to keep Avery’s voice alive? What if we continued to do all the things she wanted to do, but can’t do, but other people can do? What if we could find a way to support mission trips? Especially those to Haiti? She loved Haiti. What if we could figure out a way to tell people about Jesus through her love of reading? Donate Christian books to her school or to the library? What if we could find ways – fun, exciting ways, to tell people about Jesus, to plant seeds of faith?”

Instead of thinking it was a ridiculous idea my sister only shrugged, “what took you so long?”

Friends Katie Peterson, Tori Nichols, Avery McCarthy and Lilly Perry hang out during a sleepover at Peterson’s home last summer.

One of the missions AVERYday is doing is a concert on April 13 at UW-Whitewater’s Young Auditorium called the “Seeds of Faith.” The show will feature Christian artists Morgan Harper, local artist Jon Trost and Avery’s favorite, Jamie Grace.

All the proceeds from the event will go toward other AVERYday missions. For ticket information see sidebar.

After Avery’s death, there was a facebook rally to contact artist Jamie Grace and share with her what her music meant to Delavan’s “God Girl.” Grace received the message. Grace’s mother, Ms. Mona, contacted Bridget to let her know her daughter knew about Avery and their hearts went out to them.

Bridget, members of her family and students from Delavan Christian School were all invited to attend Winter Jam featuring Grace Feb. 1 at the U.S Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. They expected a great show, but they didn’t expect Grace to dedicate “God Girl” to Avery and tell her story to the packed auditorium while showing a picture of Avery on the big screen. The family, friends and students from DCS were also invited on stage to sing and dance as confetti dropped from the ceiling.

“It was overwhelming in the best sense of the word,” Bridget said of the moment. “It really gave us faith back in humanity.”

After the show, everyone was invited backstage to meet Grace and take pictures. After this show the idea of putting on a concert really took off.

It took some going back and forth with the artists, trying to settle on a date for the concert, but eventually everyone agreed on Saturday, April 13.

Shannon pointed out the significance of the date, which Bridget did not immediately realize. April 13 is 4:13, which is the

Avery Johanna McCarthy’s sister, Jadrian Ochoa, hugs their little brother Brody McCarthy-Vavras.

Philippians verse from the Bible Bridget had taken on as her personal affirmation after Avery died, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

Any doubt they had about putting on the concert faded away. Everything fell into place and Bridget said she felt as if Avery was saying it was going to all be OK.

Completely Avery

Friends and family describe Avery as full of life. Everyone’s cheerleader, she always rooted for the underdog. Avery had a deep sense of her faith and of herself, an unusual trait for anyone, let alone someone who has just entered the fifth grade. Her natural compassion came through in almost everything she did.

After attending a TobyMac concert just 12 days before the crash and seven days after Avery’s 11th birthday, Avery and Bridget stopped by a booth containing literature about sponsoring a child. Bridget recalls the incident in her blog:

“In the lobby were envelopes with the faces of children from various third world countries. Avery would NOT let me leave without first agreeing to sponsor a child. In fact, I tried to leave without sponsoring anyone. My cynical, doubting mind was telling me that no one really benefits from these types of organizations….

But Avery was adamant. And when Avery was adamant there was no letting go until what needed to get done got done.

And so, I dumped the rest of my cash in the envelope of the child she picked and filled out my address. I nodded, annoyed that I got suckered in to putting two twenty dollar bills into an envelope, as the kid behind the table explained that in a couple weeks we’d be receiving an informational packet that would tell us how to write to our new Sponsored Child, Alphonsine, from Rwanda.”

This type of caring for others also gave Bridget the idea for AVERYday Ministries to raise money for the children in Haiti and help fund future mission trips Avery was so set on doing herself someday.

Avery’s ideas seemed spontaneous at the time but now Bridget feels they were always part of a bigger plan. Avery loved to bring people together whether it was her Pink Prom Party she threw on a whim or the Halloween Avery filled jars with candy and give them to random people on the streets. Her mission in life seemed to be to help people in any way she could.

Other projects

The AVERYday Ministries has several other projects in the works. Avery loved to read and visit the library and one of the pending projects is the “Little Free Library.” A “mailbox” is filled with Christian-based stories and books for all ages. The idea is to take a book and/or leave a book with no “check out.” However, since the books are to be designated for all ages, the library might need to look for Christian book editors for hire, and engage their services for editing and publishing the books.

The organization would like to start the library in Delavan first and eventually set one up in Haiti under Avery’s name. AVERYday will need donations of books for the project and funds for its international location.

Avery loved her small school, Delavan Christian, which is often referred to as “one big family.” DCS Principal Enno Haan describes Avery as someone who “lit up the room.”

AVERYday is looking into setting up a scholarship fund to help offset the cost of tuition for families who would like their children to attend DCS, but may not have the means to do so. All of these projects, and others being considered, need support, donations and volunteers.

Avery McCarthy and her mom Bridget.

“Avery never saw the outside of a person,” her mom said. “She looked right through them and saw who they were. She was just such a cool kid. She was just Avery.”

How you can help

To support AVERYday Ministries send donations to: AVERYday Ministries, P.O. Box 214, Delavan, WI 53115. Donations to the Avery Johanna Memorial Fund can be made at Community Bank CBD, 820 E. Geneva St., Delavan.

For information on other ways to help, email or visit them on Facebook

Concert information

WHAT: “Seeds of Faith” concert featuring Morgan Harper, Jon Trost and Jamie Grace

WHEN: Saturday, April 13, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Young Auditorium, 930 W. Main St., Whitewater

COST: $10 in advance by calling (262) 472-2222 or $12 at the door.

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