As most who have followed Avery’s story and our foundation’s core of supporters, so much of that has come from the football community.
And one of those organizations who has been a part of it is Cleats vs. Cancers, based in Washington.
Founded by former Washington State running back Derek Sparks, now an assistant coach at Pacific Lutheran University, he established it when his own daughter, Ze’lee was diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago.
Coach Sparks felt a passion to have events and raise awareness for cancer research and treatment.
At the 2019-2020 game, Cleats Vs. Cancer gave a donation to the Avery Huffman DIPG Foundation.
When the pandemic hit, there looked like there may not be a game, but the delayed season brought the return of the game, to the spring.
This year, Cleats vs. Cancer once again donated to the Avery Huffman DIPG Foundation on behalf of the game.
And this year, there was a new twist too- a donation from a local quarterback who has closely followed Avery’s story since he was in middle school, and whose father was a part of one of the most special days Avery experienced.
Washington quarterback Sam Huard wrapped up a record-breaking career at Kennedy Catholic HS in Burien in the spring. After becoming the state of Washington’s all-time leading high school passer, he was named the 2020-2021 Gatorade State Player of the Year.
As part of his selection, he was able to choose a foundation to donate to through Gatorade, and he chose Cleats vs. Cancer and the Avery Huffman DIPG Foundation.
Coach Sparks works at Kennedy Catholic in administration and being a longtime supporter of the AHDF, he was fully on board with Sam sharing his donation with the Avery Huffman DIPG Foundation.
Sam has a history with the foundation- he and his 7v7 team won the first every #AveryStrong Elite 32 7v7 tournament in the state of Washington in 2018 and he also helped his 7v7 team win tournaments in the #brAvery Association 7v7 tour.
Rewind nearly six years ago, and at Husky Stadium, on the day that Avery was honored by Washington head coach Chris Petersen during a September game, during Childhood Cancer Awareness day, his father Damon, a former Husky and NFL quarterback, and then radio color analyst for Washington, was in the booth next to the suite coach Petersen gave us.
During halftime, Damon spent time in the suite, talking with Avery, talking with her family and friends, continuing his support for Avery and our family.
As we got to know Sam over the years, he always had a passion for our foundation as well as Cleats Vs. Cancer, so with his Gatorade award, wanting to help both.
On Sunday, our foundation was presented with the donation from both Cleats Vs. Cancer and Sam Huard/Gatorade.
Sam will wear No. 7 at Washington, and on the wall in our office is the #AveryStrong jersey that coach Petersen presented Avery, with the No. 7 on it.
So it was certainly meant to be.
We are so thankful to coach Sparks, to Sam, Damon and Julie Huard and to Gatorade for their donation to our foundation and for allowing us to continue to fight for Avery.
We are very grateful.