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When Youngstown resident Kevin Gibbs heard his friend Doug Collins of Lewiston suffered a stroke and was taken to the ICU at Buffalo General, he wanted to help Doug’s family in any way he could. This weekend, Gibbs has organized a half marathon run for a charity that Gibbs is a part of — Ava’s Avengers, created by Andrew Wright after his daughter was found to have chiari malformation, which can only be operated on since radiation is ineffective.

Due to a lack of information about the disease, Wright and his wife felt separated from their support group of friends and family. Ava’s Avengers usually helps families with children who have medical expenses from life-threatening illnesses. Gibbs came to Wright with the idea of doing a run since it would raise funds and awareness.

“We have people in multiple states and it’s almost a team-in-training type format where the people run various kinds of races and we have performed who do concerts and cabarets,” Wright said. “But, all come together to help with the same mentality of the Marvel Avengers, of if you get a group together they’re a lot more powerful than an individual. Regularly throughout the year we do races or events to help families or small charities that need assistance, and different causes.”

Once Wright was alerted to this, he posted the idea to the team board which became a post heard around the country. A woman in Las Vegas will be running 50 miles for this event, while a cyclist will be doing a 25-50 mile ride, along with all of the people running half marathons. Wright said there is no confirmation on the number of people participating. However, with social distancing guidelines, things will be done differently.

Some 15 to 20 people from Ava’s Avengers will be participating in this but they have been a part of ripple effect in getting more people to sign up which has caused it to grow to 60-100 people. People are encouraged to take pictures during their run or cycle. People in Youngstown, Lewiston and other nearby towns are encouraged to help just by doing a mile, five miles, or the half mile if they want to.

“It’s so much more powerful of a situation when you can unite,” Wright said. “The whole principle behind it is getting together. So you can hold it in a place that’s community oriented as Youngstown and Lewiston. You can say, ‘We’re all going to meet’ in the park at 6 p.m. in the evening or in the morning’, and get a large group together to show support is very powerful but you can’t to really do that safely, and that’s got to be the first concern for everybody now. Unity through solidarity, everyone’s in there own place participating online and in spirit.”

He has found it interesting, since they did an event like this earlier in the summer, that it’s a much different experience than an in-person event. Ava’s Avengers has been working to inspire people to help those in their community by being a positive example as well as getting involved.

Since a lot of their fundraising comes from large-scale events or runs, Ava’s Avengers have been doing more grassroots outreach for the time being. Much of their original means of working with people have been taken away due to social distancing guidelines.

In order to donate to assist the family, or running to show solidarity, the community can give Doug a much needed lift. People can donate to assist in Doug’s medical costs by going to www.AvasAvengers.org.  “We’d love to see community members join for a walk or run in their own neighborhood. They can send any pictures or selfies to Wright by emailing them to Andrew@AvasAvengers.org, we can get a nice piece put together for Doug’s family.”

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