The family of Avery Bishop is asking the community to help them raise money for a surgical procedure that will make her mobile.
Like a lot of 6-year-old girls, Avery Bishop loves to practice gymnastics in her living room.
Her and her 8-year-old cousin, Lexi Weiner, work on their bridge poses side-by-side, each one encouraging the other to push harder. While Weiner can lift herself almost entirely off the ground, Bishop's quadriplegic spastic cereal palsy keeps her mainly on the floor. But rather than get frustrated, she just smiles, laughs and tries a little harder.
"She's never unhappy," her dad, Gerald Bishop said.
"And she's pretty determined to do stuff," said her mom, Adrienne Bishop. "So we've always hoped she was going to walk by herself."
Currently, Avery Bishop uses a walker to get around, takes muscle relaxers three times a day to ease the pain and gets Botox injections in her muscles to decrease the spasticity. None of those methods are permanent, and the tightness will only get worse over time due to her body not utilizing the muscles correctly.
Up until a few months ago, her parents thought those were her only options, but a surgical procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy is making her future look a whole lot brighter. The surgery is a more permanent method that alleviates the spasticity in the muscles and makes it very unlikely for it to return.
"From the time I've known her, everything she and her family have endured, all I see are smiles, joys and happiness."
Jennifer Mancuso, manager at High Tides at Snack Jack and photographer
As part of the recovery process, Avery Bishop would have to have physical therapy five times per week for six months to a year. With this surgery, she has a very good chance of being able to walk independently.
"We've never had anyone say 'I think you're daughter's gonna walk,'" said Adrienne Bishop, with tears in her eyes. "I was at work when they called, and I almost had a panic attack I was so overwhelmed."
Avery Bishop, who was sitting by her mom's side, looked up at her with a very concerned face.
"Don't worry honey," Adrienne Bishop smiled and hugged her close. "These are happy tears."
Raising money for the procedure
The surgery itself cost $35,000, and the Bishops' insurance denied to pay for it because it's out of state, in St. Louis, Missouri. So the family is taking matters into their own hands and asking for the help of their community to raise a total of $40,000 to cover the costs of travel expenses as well. They're shooting to have the surgery done in July.
Co-owner of High Tides at Snack Jack Gail Holt has been a family friend of the Bishops for many years, and when she heard Adrienne Bishop say the following, she knew she had to step in and help.
"She said 'I will sell my kidney for my daughter," Holt said. "That's when I was like, 'Let's do this. It's gonna be hard, but we can raise the money.'"
On April 3 the entire restaurant staff — a total of 40 people — came in early to assist with a photoshoot of the 6-year-old to put on a calendar to sell for the fundraiser.
"The staff fell in love with Avery and her family," Holt said. "Just look at her. Are you kidding me? She's such a special girl."