Locals fundraise for 9-year-old with inoperable brain tumor

  • Rhoda and Jeffrey Woodard with their 9-year-old daughter, Ava Woodard, who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on her brain stem. Courtesy photo

  • 9-year-old, Ava Woodard, the daughter of Rindge native Rhoda Woodard, was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on her brain stem. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/29/2020 4:18:12 PM

The local community is rallying for a 9-year-old girl who lives nearly 1,000 miles away, to raise money for her family as they fight her inoperable brain cancer.

Ava Woodard, 9, lives with her family in South Carolina, but in the short time since her diagnosis, the Woodard’s New Hampshire family have stepped up to the plate in organizing several local fundraisers to support the family during Ava’s treatment, using the name “Ava’s Army” as a banner.

Ava’s mother, Rhoda Woodard, was born in Keene and raised in Rindge, and she and her husband Jeffrey, originally from Winchendon, Massachusetts, made their first home on Old Ashburnham Road in Rindge before moving to South Carolina in 2003.

“We’ve had so much support,” Rhoda Woodard said in an interview Monday.

Rhoda said she first noticed something off with her daughter when she noticed her eyes were red, and she seemed to be straining to see. She complained that the light made her eyes hurt and she was experiencing double vision.

But when Rhoda took her to the optometrist, she said it became apparent there might be a bigger issue than Ava’s eyes. Her eye doctor referred her to the hospital for an MRI, where doctors found a tumor on her brain stem. She was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, a rare form of aggressive cancer most often found in children, on July 9.

“It’s bad, bad, bad. It’s inoperable,” Rhoda said.

The family is pursuing radiation treatment for Ava, but is also hoping to have her included in some clinical trials.

“Pray,” Rhoda said, when asked how people can assist her family. “We’re begging for prayers. For hope. For peace. We just want to keep her so bad.”

Ava has already been dealing with a long-term medical issue in the form of arthritis, Rhoda said, but you wouldn’t know it if you spoke to her.

“She just wants to be carefree and be a kid. She loves to laugh, and to make us laugh. She’s always had a really hearty laugh, we call it ‘Ava’s guffaw’. She loves people, and just loves so hard,” Rhoda said.

“She lives life to the fullest,” Rhoda’s sister, Leah Dupuis of Jaffrey said. “She’s dealt with pain for a lot of years, but she would never let you know it, for the most part.”

Since her diagnosis, Rhoda and Jeff’s families, many of whom still reside locally, have organized fundraisers. Dupuis said her 11-year-old daughter, shortly after Ava’s diagnosis, proposed running a lemonade stand to collect money for a gift for the family. The spur-of-the-moment fundraiser, with word-of-mouth and social media, collected $6,000 in donations.

“It was phenomenal. Just being an aunt and not feeling like you’re close enough to do anything, it was something that just showed how much people care,” Dupuis said.

A second lemonade stand fundraiser held on the Rindge common on Friday raised another $3,000 for the family.

There are currently two local fundraisers planned for Ava in the month of August. On Aug. 15, at the Hidden Hills Estate, there will be a chicken barbeque, lemonade stand and bake sale. Tickets must be purchased in advance and can be purchased at the Harbor Restaurant in Winchendon, Massachusetts, or by contacting family members Josiah Ketola, Ethan Ketola or Leah Dupuis through Facebook. Funds raised will benefit the Woodards.

On Aug. 29, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be an iced coffee, coffee, lemonade and bake sale fundraiser at the Foxbrook Building at 829 Turnpike Road in New Ipswich.

To assist the family, donations are being accepted through www.paypal.me/armyforava, www.caringbridge.org/visit/avawoodard, or https://www.gofundme.com/f/ava-woodard-dipg-fund.


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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