- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - When Avery Grace Tith was born last Christmas weighing in at just one pound, her parents knew she would be beginning the fight of her life.

Avery managed to pull through at just 24 weeks old, but her twin sister, Aubrey Faith Tith, passed away days later.

After giving birth to the twins, mother Angel Tith said one of the biggest challenges was being there for her older step-children when she wasn’t sure what the future would hold.

“We lost Aubrey on New Year’s,” Tith said. “I was trying to be strong for the kids, but with Avery still struggling I didn’t know what would happen. I didn’t know what to say.”

Avery suffered many side effects from being born premature, such as chronic lung disease. She has no immune system.

Tith said her body was not able to carry the twins for the full term despite having a healthy pregnancy.

“I was fine. I did everything right - I ate all my fruits and vegetables and I went to the doctor regularly,” Tith said. “At 19 and a half weeks, my cervix measured short. The weight of the twins was too much.”

As time has progressed, Tith said she has found strength in her daughter - watching her grow and become healthier each day.

Avery has spent the first year of her life inside of a hospital, with mom constantly by her side.

Three months ago, Avery was transported to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

The drive has forced Tith to stay permanently in Ohio with Avery. Tith said she only gets to see her husband, J.R., and her other children during monthly weekend visits.

Tith said she realized what her life had become after she received a phone call from a radio station in Winchester, Virginia - a phone call that was intended to alleviate some stress.

After the station called to read her a letter they received that described her family’s struggle over the past year and informing her a business had chosen to sponsor her, Tith said things were put into perspective.

“When the lady read to me that letter - the story of my life, it hit me. I didn’t understand it at first because I just thought ‘It’s my baby - it’s what you do,’” Tith said. “When she read my life, she made me cry so much. I didn’t realize it was so sad because it was my new normal. I don’t sit around and feel bad for myself. That’s not who I am.”

Avery is expected to come home within the next few weeks, according to Tith. Now weighing 14 pounds, she will still be required to use oxygen to breathe.

In addition to the drive, Avery’s care has created a financial burden for the family.

But local businesses around the Eastern Panhandle hope to offset some of those hospital costs and prove the holidays can still be a time of miracles.

Ashleigh Jandora, an insurance agent from Fargo Insurance, has launched a fundraising campaign for the Tith family that will start this Saturday and will run through Jan. 22.

The campaign is an online auction and donation site where visitors can bid on items or donate money directly to the family. Some of the items up for auction include a “date night package” that includes a gift certificate from Boyd’s Steakhouse, movie tickets and a gift certificate for cocktails at Les’ Station Grill.

Jandora recalled what it was like when she first came across Avery’s struggle.

“I remember sitting in my office and getting tagged on Facebook with her story. I ran into the hallway and grabbed my boss and I said ‘can we do something?’” she said. “I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I knew we had to do something.”

In addition to spearheading the group, Fargo Insurance is donating a $300 gift card to be auctioned off on the site during the fundraiser.

“This is probably the best Christmas I’ve ever had,” Jandora said. “It is the most refreshing thing I’ve ever been a part of and I’m so honored to know Angel and for her to allow me to do this. She is so humbled and so grateful.”

While the auction site will run through mid-January, Jandora said she is hoping to be able to continue the fundraiser afterward.

Jandora said she had faith the campaign will provide relief to the family and help Avery continue fighting for her life.

“My faith in people has taken a huge turn. I mean, you live in this world for so long and you see some of the nasty sides and you tend to forget there’s still that much good out there,” Jandora said.

The link for the site is www.32auctions.com/averytith .

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Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/

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