Avery Shannon: Be The Light

By: Avery Hudkins

On May 25th, 2018, Avery Shannon passed away in an ATV accident while up at the lake with friends. Tragedy struck the Jenks community when this happened. JHS had just lost such a promising student with such a bright future ahead of her. But what some people don’t realize is that Avery herself left behind such a remarkably beautiful legacy that is still felt today.

Before I even met the Shannons to write this article, I knew of Avery’s story. What’s crazy to me is I wasn’t even at Jenks back in 2018 when this took place. Yet, I always saw AveDog stickers on the back of cars or girls always wearing their AveDog shirts. This was a story that always stuck with me even though I never knew her or her family.

Avery Shannon was a special and determined girl. Born with a cataract in her right eye, Avery had multiple eye surgeries growing up. She was delayed in motor skills and had a speech delay when she was younger. The Shannons were told Avery could never be the gymnast or dancer she aspired to be. Her parents, however, knew she would overcome these obstacles she faced at such a young age.

“You don’t know this kid,” Lisa Shannon would say.

In the second semester of her kindergarten year, Avery was already doing the monkey bars and proving people wrong. Growing up, Avery lived life like reckless abandon. 

“Avery was crazy. She beat to her own drum,” Mrs. Shannon says. 

Avery struggled a little bit with friends when she got into middle school. Her mom says Avery was not boy crazy yet at that age and feels that put her a step behind some of her peers during that time period. 

“Some of the grieving mothers who follow me or Avery on social media always tell me how cool and honest my posts are. They always tell me they never put their child who passed faults out there. All these kids are going through so much these days and for someone who has been remembered for the way she treated people I just wanted to put that out there because not everyone has a great day and she still struggled,” Mrs. Shannon says. 

Relating to this, Mrs. Shannon posted a tweet on Avery’s instagram that her daughter retweeted at one point that said “I’m always the friend who has to walk behind everyone when there is no room on the sidewalk.” 

As Avery got into high school more than halfway through her freshman year she found amazing friends who loved her fun and true self through and through. She finally found her people. 

The pictures and stories posted by Avery’s friends show how fun and goofy she was. One of Avery’s best friends always said how Avery had a way of calming people down and pumping them up in her own little cute subtle way.  

“Every single day is a gift and whenever you have the opportunity go out of your way to make someone else smile,” Mrs. Shannon says. We should all live the Avery Shannon way and do this! 

Avery (on the left) and her friend.
(I feel as if this picture encapsulates her energy perfectly)

When Avery passed away, Elissa Mahaffey who had Avery as a student for two years, posted a picture of Avery’s desk and there were multiple sticky notes with sweet messages from all the students in the class. 

“The way Mrs. Mahaffey worded it spoke volumes of how she thought about Avery,” Mrs. Shannon says. 

The post started off by saying how Avery would walk into class (usually late which made her mother laugh when she read that) but that she always had this big smile on her face and she just lit up the room. Her desk was covered with such sweet messages. It was such a beautiful post. 

When Mahaffey first found out about Avery’s passing she was devastated. 

“I woke up on a Saturday and had 43 texts and 7 missed calls from students. My heart sank,” Mahaffey states.

Mahaffey during this time had been teaching for 8 years and had lost 4 other students. She knew immediately that she had lost another. 

“The immediate day after we didn’t have that class (1st hour) because of a block, I walked into my classroom that morning alone, and walked to her desk and sobbed,” Mahaffey says.

This was a very hard time for everyone and it was so hard to process that Avery was truly gone. Realistically she had just been at school three days prior to her passing.This really shows just how precious life is and how we can’t take anything for granted. 

“I had seen her the morning she passed. She turned in a huge assignment and I said I was so impressed. I still have that assignment. It reminds me to always encourage students because you never know the last time you will be able to,” Mahaffey says. 

That following Tuesday about 40 girls piled into Mahaffey’s classroom before school. They prayed, cried, asked why, and found ways to try to cope with this tragic death. They then all watched The Greatest Showman because it was newly released during this time and the dancing in the movie made them smile.

Relating back to the post Mahaffey had posted on social media, the entire class after putting sticky notes with sweet messages about Avery on her desk around her timeline (the last assignment she turned in) all decided to go to Sonic to drink slushies and just talk about life. 

“It was one of my sweetest memories as a teacher,” Mahaffey says. 

When asked how Avery was as a student she said this:

“Avery struggled in my class but was great at asking for help. I held her hand while maintaining high expectations. Two years of class made us close and I fangirled at Pom events often,” Mahaffey says. 

The Class of 2019, which was Avery’s class, is extremely special to Mahaffey. After Avery’s death, Mahaffey claims they all had more of an adult relationship. Many started to come to her for advice which she is eternally grateful for. Sometimes someone’s passing can bring others closer and that is a very beautiful thing found in this short-term life we live. 

“The minute Avery got onto campus she poured her heart emotionally into her peers,” Mrs. Shannon says.

“Avery was the glue of the group” according to one of her friends moms

Her mom knows this is true when she had met even just acquaintances of Avery’s from all different walks of life. One kid new to Jenks had just joined the band, and told Mrs. Shannon how her daughter went out of her way to introduce them to other kids that she knew in the band so that they could make new friends. 

“After she was gone we had no idea that she had made this impact,” Mrs. Shannon says. “After her passing there was this almost snowball effect of how many people she positively affected during her life. To this day Avery’s presence can still be felt in the Jenks community.”

At Avery’s service, the youth minister approached Avery’s grandma and told her she probably had no idea how many people her granddaughter led to Christ. It wasn’t from her posting Bible quotes on social media or leading Bible studies but how she lived her life on a daily basis and how she treated others. 

I told Mrs. Shannon that I feel like Avery and I would have been friends if we were around the same age. I never met her but I can just tell from what I’ve gathered that she lit up every room she entered. That’s the kind of person you want to strive to be friends with. 

Although Avery’s passing was an extreme tribulation for the Shannon family along with the entire Jenks community who was so graciously blessed by Avery’s presence, there was a beautiful outcome amidst this tragedy. 

One night the Shannon’s and two close friends of theirs were sitting around in the family room a couple of days after the accident. Mrs. Shannon’s sister was in town as well. Tate, Avery’s little brother, was jumping on the trampoline outside still in shock from everything. Mrs. Shannon’s sister walked outside and Tate showed her two sticks that formed the letter A that stuck together while he jumped around on the trampoline. Keep in mind they were the only sticks that were stuck together as well. 

The Shannons knew instantly that was a sign from God showing them that their sister is always going to be with them. 

A very close family friend of the Shannon’s always called her “Avedog.” He always told them they needed to market Avery and her legacy she left behind. Their friend claimed that this message of light instantly came to his mind when he thought of Avery. Then the Bible verse Matthew 5:14-5:16 “Be The Light” came to their other friend’s mind. Everyone agreed on this. The Shannon’s then got in contact with their friend who does graphic design and he and his graphic design team made the “AveDog Be the Light” logo. 

“Pom coaches, teachers, acquaintances, and friends always claimed Avery lit up anyone’s day, a stage or classroom everytime she entered,” Mrs. Shannon says. That’s why it was so easy for them to pick this tagline for her. 

After the Shannon’s started making shirts and other items in remembrance of Avery in her foundation, a friend suggested to them that they should make a college scholarship fund in Avery’s name. The Shannon’s went to the school to get this approved. The Jenks Pom Organization held a fundraiser for this scholarship fund by selling AveDog shirts. Then one of Avery’s really close friends growing up approached the volleyball team and asked if they could hold a fundraiser as well for this cause. Southern Ag donated a huge yeti cooler to help. Jenks Volleyball decided to hold the fundraiser when playing against Bixby. The entire volleyball organization bought Avedog shirts. Altogether they raised $7500. 

Other communities such as Bixby held a fundraiser too. Their volleyball team decided to help donate to this fundraiser. Other sports teams at Jenks such as tennis helped as well. All around it was such a bittersweet feeling seeing all these different sports teams and communities contributing to this cause. All this money raised went directly into the foundation under the Avery Shannon Memorial College fund. 

“We were so humbled by all of this,” Mrs. Shannon says. 

“It is truly a parents worst nightmare knowing at the back of our mind that possibly one day we’ll wake up and people will stop talking about our kid. You just don’t want people to forget about your kid,” Mrs. Shannon says.

This quote right here really touched me. By writing this story on Avery Shannon I hope that the Jenks community keeps this story in the back of their mind for the rest of their life. I hope we as a community never forget Avery Shannon. She was an angel on earth. We shall always cherish the legacy she left behind here at Jenks. Whether she was killing it on the dance floor for pom or just having fun with friends, Avery Shannon truly left a mark wherever she went. 

The Avery Shannon scholarship can be found in Naviance under the scholarships section. You must be a female and a senior.The rest of the requirements can be found there. Apply before it is due in April! 

Although you must be a girl for this scholarship, the Shannons selected Griffin Forbes, a former student here at Jenks, as one of the recipients for the scholarship. They fully believed he was very worthy of this scholarship. 

“I felt very blessed and excited because of what Avedog stands for and what she did for the community,” Forbes says. 

Forbes walked me through the day he found out he was granted the scholarship. He was told to go to the lobby because there was a principal wanting to chat with him. Super nervous, he made his way down to the lobby. There he sees Mrs. Shannon standing around with other people. She then informs Griffin he is receiving the scholarship. 

“I was not expecting the scholarship. With it being a great opportunity and honor because of Avery, to get the scholarship is something I didn’t know was able to happen,” Forbes said.

The Shannon’s knew they had to turn something positive out of their tragedy. Avery loved Jenks like no other. She was a Jenks lifer. That’s why her foundation and scholarship fund in her own name is what Avery would want. Her family and friends know this. 

Mrs. Shannon claims how dumbfounded her family and friends that are from out of town were when they saw the immense support from the Jenks community after Avery’s passing. 

Jenks senior Pom poster in honor of Avery

On Avery’s 18th birthday. the Shannon’s received many messages and sweet videos wishing Avery a happy birthday. Many of her friends were in college during this time but they took the time to spell out Avedog in candles or in other creative ways and they wished her a happy birthday alongside with their sororities, fraternities, and other friends. This cheered up Avery’s family immensely on a day they were dreading so horribly.  

“Family is precious and friends and everyday is as well because you just never know what could happen,” Doug Shannon, father of Avery Shannon, says. 

Avery had been going to Grand Lake on memorial day weekend since she was 8 years old. No one ever thought this would happen. 

“The Oklahoma Highway Patrol knocking on our door telling us about Avery’s passing is a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life,” Mr. Shannon says. 

The Shannons are always thankful to see posts, stories, Avedog merch, and other things that remind them of Avery. 

 I am truly honored to have gotten the chance to write this memorable piece on such a beautiful and delightful soul. Avery Shannon I hope to “Be the Light” just as you always were and to consistently live life to the fullest just as you did. May you continue to rest in peace sweet girl and may your legacy always live on. 

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