Jaycees helping Avery

Within an hour of being alive, doctors  realized there was something wrong with Avery Mae Weier.

The daughter of Brad and Jill Weier of Columbia seemed healthy at first, despite being born five weeks early. 

Soon, however, doctors diagnosed her with a congenital condition that means Avery’s esophagus was not connected to her stomach. 

A day later when she had surgery to fix that, doctors found Avery had a floppy trachea. A week later, they discovered she has paralyzed vocal cords. 

A tracheostomy helped Avery breathe easier, but because of the trauma she endured Avery never learned how to eat, so a gastronomy tube was placed in her stomach. 

In total, Avery spent 85 days in the neonatal intensive care unit. She still requires around the clock care. 

Knowing all that, the Columbia Area Jaycees are hosting a trivia night on Oct. 26, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Weier family. 

“When we found out about problems with the baby, we were like ‘oh man this is going to suck,’” Columbia Area Jaycees President James Zahn said. “Hospital bills are super expensive and (Jill) and Brad both (work in education), so we knew funds aren’t always the best.” 

Zahn said several members knew Weier from when she tended bar at Tiny’s Pub & Grill. 

The Jaycees decided to do a trivia night to benefit the family because it had not done one before and Zahn knew the organization could run the event even with its limited manpower. 

The trivia night starts at 7 p.m. at the Columbia American Legion. Doors open at 5 p.m. The Jaycees currently have 40 tables of eight players reserved, but more spots are available. 

The cost is $200 per table. Call or text 618-560-1418 to reserve a table or send a check to P.O. Box 143 in Columbia and make it payable to the Columbia Area Jaycees. 

There will be tables set aside for people who do not reserve a spot. Individuals can also sponsor a table for $100.

In addition to the trivia, a silent auction with items like an all-expenses-paid golf outing to Indiana, 50/50 raffle and cash bar will provide entertainment. 

The Jaycees are still accepting silent auction item donations. 

Participants must bring their own snacks. 

Jill, who is the athletic director in the Dupo school district, said this is just one of the ways people have offered to help her family. 

Although people require special training to care for Avery, she said the Weiers have gotten many offers of groceries, kind messages and other encouragements. 

“It’s overwhelming the support we’ve gotten, not just from the Jaycees, but from everybody in our neighborhood, our extended families, our friends,” Jill said. “People really come together when something bad happens, and it’s pretty amazing. We’re grateful.” 

The family will be able to put the trivia night money to good use, as not much has changed with Avery’s condition in the five months since she was born.

She has had some checkups,  but nothing major has been done. Avery’s first major appointment is scheduled for Dec. 3 when doctors will look to see if her trachea has opened up and if her vocal chords are moving. 

After that, Jill said they may know more about what the future holds for Avery, but there will still be uncertainties. 

When she gets older, for example, she may have surgery on her paralyzed vocal chords, but that is unknown. 

“Everything’s a waiting game at this point,” Jill summarized. “It’s all a what-if.” 

On the positive side, Jill said Avery is gaining weight at a good pace and is doing physical and speech therapy. Some issues with Avery’s heart have also been cleared. 

“We have a long road ahead of hospital visits and possible surgeries but we are taking it one day at a time,” the family wrote in a message for the event poster. 

If the Weier family’s story is not enough to move people to help them, Zahn said meeting Jill and Brad would be. 

“They’re both generally amazing people,” he said. “I’ve known Jill personally for probably 15 years, and she would literally give anybody anything that she has or would do anything for anybody. We’re just trying to help people who are willing to help other people.” 

For more information on the trivia night, visit the Columbia Area Jaycees on Facebook.

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James Moss

James is an alumni of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he graduated summa cum laude with degrees in mass communications and applied communications studies. While in school, he interned at two newspapers and worked at a local grocery store to pay for his education. When not working for the Republic-Times, he enjoys watching movies, reading, playing video games and spending time with his friends.
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