Pawsitive Change: Teen Raises Money for Animal Shelters

Avery Sontheimer would love to have her own shelter. But for now, despite battling cancer, she’s dedicated to helping hundreds of rescues—one gift card at a time.

Posted in , Oct 2, 2020

Avery Sontheimer; photo courtesy Avery Sontheimer

Back in March, 13-year-old Avery Sontheimer of Corry, Pennsylvania, won a baking contest and received a $25 gift card to Walmart. Without hesitation, she knew exactly what she wanted to buy: more gift cards. Avery decided to purchase five $5 gift cards and send them to local animal shelters. “She’s always been an animal lover,” says Avery’s mom, Kim. “She wants to save them all.”

Kim helped Avery set up a GoFundMe page where people could donate to her cause. By mid-October, Avery had sent out 914 gift cards to shelters all over the U.S. “Receiving the donations, buying the gift cards and packaging them for the mail brings her such joy,” Kim says. “It’s amazing to watch her be so motivated about something. You want your child to find a passion in life and this is hers.”

Avery, who is currently undergoing treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer that usually grows in the bones or in the surrounding cartilage, is preparing more gift cards to send out soon. Despite enduring multiple rounds of chemotherapy since her diagnosis in July, Avery always find the energy—even when she is bedridden, surrounded by her own six cats—to keep up with her mission. Connecting with her Facebook followers by responding to their prayers and messages, Avery and her mom post positive videos and photos of her latest medical and fundraising updates. “What an inspiration you are to all of us,” wrote one follower recently. In turn, Avery, whose ultimate goal is to open her own animal shelter, draws the inspiration to keep going by doing this meaningful work. Says Kim: “She’s never going to take a break from helping animals.”  

Follow Avery’s mission on Facebook at Avery’s Pawsitive Change.

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