October 14, 2015
By Christopher Yee / Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Tiffany Perry Photography
Saturday’s fundraising event in Aliso Viejo was the first time 5-year-old Aeverie Labile, center with mask, ever played with children who weren’t family members.
ALISO VIEJO – As the sun set over Jimboy’s Tacos on Oct. 10, Aeverie Labile and her new friends sat down on a quilt and blew bubbles.
The day was all about 5-year-old Aeverie, whose many food allergies may trigger anaphylaxis, a severe life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction. Even nut particles in the air may cause a reaction, so hundreds of locals stopped by Jimboy’s to help raise $15,000 for an allergen-sniffing dog for Aeverie.
In addition to money raised from the silent auction of lavish gift baskets, Jimboy’s pledged 25 percent of its sales for most of the day, as did Rita’s Italian Ice, which set up a cart outside the restaurant.
Nearly lost in the shuffle of Saturday’s AV Loves Aeverie fundraiser was one simple fact: It was the first time the 5-year-old ever played with children who weren’t relatives.
“It gives me so much hope seeing her play with other children,” said Aeverie’s mother Stephanie Labile, watching her pop bubbles blown by another girl. “A month ago, I couldn’t have imagined we’d be be here, surrounded by strangers who all want to help bring Aeverie into the world.”
Before Saturday, Aeverie spent most of her time in her family’s second-story Aliso Viejo apartment, both because it is carefully protected against allergens and it’s become an emotional safe space for her, Stephanie Labile said. Visiting family members have to avoid eating nuts even a day before, so that means she mostly plays with her adult aunts and uncle.
Diane Davani, one of the fundraiser organizers, watched as her daughter, Katie, and several other girls donned vinyl gloves and dust masks to play with Aeverie on Saturday.
“We brought Rapunzel down from her tower, at least for one day,” Davani said with a smile.
Davani and fundraiser co-organizer Erin Bactat met Stephanie Labile when she hosted a wine and paint night in an attempt to raise money for an allergen-detecting dog for Aeverie. When Davani heard Aeverie’s story, she said there had to be a better way to raise the money necessary than infrequent paint nights that earned her no more than $15 per attendee.
Between the silent auction, restaurant donations and donations sent via the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, the group has raised enough to order the dog, Davani said.
The group has three more silent auction items – including an orthodontic service package valued at $6,000 and an autographed hockey stick used by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez – that will be auctioned via the “Residents of Aliso Viejo” Facebook group.
Funds raised beyond the group’s $15,000 goal will go toward special food and care for the dog, which will be trained by Falco K9 Academy in Yorba Linda, Davani said.
Food allergies aren’t the only health challenges for Aeverie – she hasEhlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disease that affects the joints, forcing her to wear leg braces; she has muscular dystrophy, which causes her joints, ligaments and muscles to ache; she struggles with asthma; and she suffers from urticaria, which means her own sweat causes her to break out in hives.
But Aeverie’s peanut and tree nut allergies are most dangerous to her in the open world, and a nut-sniffing dog will allow her to safely take classes at her home school, Don Juan Avila Elementary School, as early as the start of the 2016-17 school year.
While the dog will be able to steer Aeverie away from nuts and nut particles in the air, she’ll need some help from her classmates to keep nuts off campus entirely. Davani said the school will learn very quickly that small changes in their habits can make all the difference in including all students, as evidenced by her daughter, Katie Davani.
Before Saturday’s fundraiser, Katie played soccer. After the game, her team snacked on granola bars, but Katie read the label and saw nuts included. She snacked on a banana instead.
“I picked the banana because I wanted to play with my friend,” Katie said.
As the fundraiser wrapped up, Aeverie retreated to the family car, tired from a day of fun.
It was a big day for her, and not one she’s likely to forget anytime soon.
“It was amazing,” Aeverie said. “It was awesome. We played games, and more games, and more games, and danced to more songs, and played more games.”
“So fun,” she said from behind her mask.