As a middle-school student more than three decades ago, Ron Avery witnessed first-hand the toll a battle of cancer can take on a family.
So, he vowed to do something about it when he reached adulthood.
Avery, 51, started the Avery Foundation two years ago in memory of his sister, Julie, who passed away in 1982 and his brother, Jim, who passed away in 2015. Both battled cancer.
“Stress does horrible things to a perfectly healthy body, so just think what it can do to a body that’s fighting cancer,” Ron Avery said. “It takes away the energy that’s needed to fight the cancer. It gives the cancer that extra ammunition you don’t want it to have.
“We want to take away as much of the stress out of it as we can for these patients. Cancer’s a terrible thing. We want to help the people on the front lines directly and give them the bullets they need to fight cancer.”
The stress on the Avery family came in the form of frequent trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for Julie’s treatments.
The Avery Foundation provides assistance to cancer patients by covering the cost of travel to treatments, meals, some lodging and other hidden costs. Eventually, when the foundation grows, he would like to help with the pharmecutical costs.
On Saturday, during the annual Saint 4 Life Night at Mystique Community Ice Center, the Avery Foundation will receive an assist from the Dubuque Fighting Saints organization. Proceeds from the 50/50 drawing will be donated to the Avery Foundation.
Ron Avery will be on hand to meet fans and sign copies of his book, “365 Days of Inspiration: Daily Inspiration for Cancer Patients,” which helps cancer patients with the day-to-day battle. He will be joined by two members of the Saints’ 1981 national championship, Dr. Mike Fallon and Denny Gibbons. Gibbons will also sign copies of his book, which details the behind-the-scenes life of the team that introduced the sport to Dubuque while winning a championship.
Goaltender Mark Jasken will not be on hand, but he donated one of his original game jerseys to the cause.
Julie Avery befriended many of the original Saints, and Fallon dated her briefly.
“Julie was such a fantastic young lady who dealt with so much adversity and showed a lot of courage so early in her life,” said Fallon, who chose a career in oncology largely because of witnessing the battle Julie Avery endured. “Knowing the family, I understand the challenges they faced. They didn’t have a lot of money, and those trips took a lot of energy out of them.
“It’s an honor for me to be asked to come back and drop the ceremonial first puck Saturday night. Not only in memory of Julie, but for the people of Dubuque. They made our time there a phenomenal experience. It was probably the pinnacle in a lot of our athletic careers, and the people embraced us.”
The Saints will host the USHL Eastern Conference-leading Muskegon Lumberjacks at 7:05 tonight for Pucks & Paws supply drive, sponsored by That’s My Dog. They host the Des Moines Buccaneers at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, and the first 1,000 fans will receive a bobblehead of Buffalo Sabres power forward and Saints alum Zemgus Girgensons.
Last month, the Saints raised more than $9,000 for Two By Two Character Development through a 50/50 drawing and silent auction.