Friends of Ava Coronado said she would have loved what her sister and best friend cooked up for her last Friday at a summer lunch program.
On what would have been Ava’s eighth birthday, Aizlynn Coronado and Isabella Fogarty, along with Isabella’s sisters, Halle and Brailyn, used the event to hand out dozens of the girl’s favorite cookie to the lunch participants at the Potawatomi Lodge in Reighard Park. They also distributed paper hearts decorated with sentiments Ava espoused, such as “Be the change,” “Be a buddy,” and “Always be a friend.”
It was their way of celebrating and honoring Ava, who died unexpectedly Feb. 7 of an existing heart defect just days after contracting influenza. A second grader at Wauseon Primary School, Ava loved the color pink and her jazz, tap, and ballet classes at Stars Unlimited Dance & Baton Studio.
Jaime Fogarty, a friend of the Coronado family who, along with her daughters and Aizlynn, wore pink T-shirts for the occasion, spoke briefly to approximately 70 people gathered for the summertime lunch program sponsored by the Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commission (NOCAC). Fogarty remembered Ava, and challenged the children attending to be a buddy to a lonely child or to seek friendship with others.
“Today is a day that we want to remember the good things about Ava, and those are a long list of good things,” Fogarty said. “She was always a very good friend. She was an awesome little girl who was kind to everybody, and she was always a buddy.”
She said she and the girls wanted to share their message about what Ava meant to them, and made the message hearts “that stand for what Ava was all about. We just wanted everyone to know how she impacted our lives while she was here with us. We thought, what an awesome opportunity to capture so many people in one setting and bless them just how Ava blessed us.”
Fogarty contacted Heidi Keween, NOCAC Community Partnership manager, about honoring Ava at the Wauseon luncheon.
“I was just blown away,” Keween said. “I’m from the Defiance community, and I’d heard a lot about the situation. It got me very excited that they could maybe touch the lives of others with her message. I’m very touched they thought about our program to come to.”
Lexi Noll, a NOCAC volunteer who helps oversee the summer lunch program, said, “I think it’s a great thing what they’re doing. Ava seems like a girl that is dearly missed, and she left an impact on this earth, and I think it’s a great thing that they are celebrating her birthday today. So, we are glad to let them come in and share that and celebrate with us.”
Aizlynn Coronado shyly acknowledged how happy she is to carry on Ava’s legacy of goodwill. “She was a very kind sister, and nice,” she said.
Fogarty said she and the girls would like the opportunity again to spread Ava’s words of kindness. At a fast-pitch softball game later on Friday, Wauseon’s 10U team, of which Aizlynn and Brailyn are members, lit a pink paper lantern in her honor.
“We wanted to make sure her birthday didn’t go by without celebrating her,” Fogarty said.
Begun in 2009 through the U.S, Department of Agriculture, the NOCAC summer lunch program provides a healthy lunch Monday through Friday in Wauseon, Fayette, and 14 other locations around northwestern Ohio. Keween said any child can attend, and there is no registration and no income eligibility. During the lunch period recreational activities are also provided.
The Wauseon program operates 12-12:45 p.m. and ends Aug. 4; the Fayette program is from 11:45 a.m -12:15 p.m. in Fayette Park, and ends July 28. A summer weekend program provides take-home meals through a grant through Gov. John Kasich’s office.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.