‘Avapalooza,’ other events helping Carmel Valley mom raise funds, awareness for Leukemia Society

Although she’s just 4 years old, Ava Foster has already battled cancer twice. Today, the Carmel Valley preschooler is thriving, and her mother, Shannon Foster, is heading a fundraising campaign in her honor for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“It’s certainly an honor for me to be able to do this for Ava and for all the other families who go through this just like we did,” Foster said.

The 10-week “Man & Woman of the Year” competition benefits blood cancer research.

Approximately every three minutes, one person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Blood cancers are diseases that can affect the bone marrow, the blood cells, the lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system.

On March 12, 2012, Foster’s younger daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes a large number of abnormal blood cells. She was just 17 months old.

“You hear about it happening to people, but you never think that it will happen to you,” Foster recalled. “It was really surprising and shocking to deal with that sort of diagnosis.”

Ava was treated at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, where she went through four rounds of chemotherapy. After nearly six months in the hospital, she went into remission and the Foster family celebrated their fresh start by relocating to San Diego.

August 2013 would have marked one year cancer-free for Ava, but when she went to the doctors for her monthly checkup, doctors discovered her cancer had returned.

“Quite frankly, when I found out she was diagnosed again, it was very difficult not to think she would die,” Foster said. “It was really hard.”

Ava underwent chemo, radiation, a bone marrow transplant. She spent about four months in and out of Rady Children’s Hospital.

“She’s so amazing and she’s so strong,” said Foster, who is also the proud mother of 6-year-old Addison.

“We don’t consider her in remission because it’s only been a year and a half since her transplant, but she hasn’t had any evidence of disease since her transplant. She’s been doing very, very well.”

Inspired by her daughter, Foster is hoping to raise $50,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She is one of nine locals competing in the San Diego/Hawaii Chapter’s “Man & Woman of the Year” campaign.

If Foster reaches her goal, her family will have firsthand access to a blood cancer research portfolio, and receive updates on research, progress and new treatments for acute myeloid leukemia. If she wins the title, she can decide where the research grant goes and name the grant for her daughter.

“It’s a pretty hefty goal for us, but I want to raise as much as I can,” Foster said. “I’d love to surpass that goal.”

To raise funds, Foster is holding a variety of events.

She and her supporters held “Avapalooza,” a family-friendly carnival May 31 at Torrey Hills Park in Carmel Valley.

On June 6, her team is holding the Avapalooza Pub Crawl from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the PB Shore Club, The Local and The Backyard in San Diego. On June 9, her team is holding the Avapalooza Charity Golf Tournament, beginning at 11 a.m. at The Crossings in Carlsbad.

“You never know when something like this is going to happen to you or somebody else you know,” Foster said. “The money that people are raising just means so much. It not only means so much to my family, but it means so much to families that are being diagnosed every single day.”

For more about the events or to donate to Foster’s campaign, visit www.mwoy.org/pages/sd/sd15/sfoster or www.facebook.com/avapalooza.

For information about the 2015 Man & Woman of the Year competition, visit www.mwoy.org/sd.

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