Friends and neighbours in Mount Brydges, Ont. are pulling together following the death of 13-year-old Avery Kernaghan.
Avery and her father, Doug Kernaghan, were on their way to a provincial synchronized skating competition in Komoka when their car collided with another vehicle.
Avery was pronounced dead in hospital, while her father remains in critical but stable condition.
In Mount Brydges, a tight-knit community where hockey and skating are popular extracurriculars, the tragedy hit hard.
Avery Kernaghan's mother, Chrissy, is a well-known skating coach, and Avery joined the sport as a toddler.
"We're in a very small town in Mount Brydges, so everyone knows everybody. Skating knows hockey, hockey and skating knows school and so everybody knows Avery," said Cheryl McFadden, a close friend of the family and colleague of Chrissy's.
McFadden remembers Avery as a dedicated athlete and a spunky teenager who was known affectionately as "Dolly" or "Sweet Pea."
A GoFundMe page set up for the family describes her as "a shining light," with a "fierce nature and contagious smile."
The page has already surpassed its $30,000 goal, receiving donations from more than 300 different donors.
That money will help absorb some of the financial blow caused by the accident and the consequent loss of income, said McFadden.
"When you're a skating coach you're self-employed. You have no benefits, and there's going to be huge expenses," she said. "The purpose of the page is to help this family so nothing in that regard has to be given a second thought."
Ice skates hang in memory
Beyond the GoFundMe page, another grassroots campaign has started up in Mount Brydges. On porches and mailboxes, ice skates hang in tribute to Avery and in support of the Kernaghan family.
Gina Harris came up with the idea. She lives down the street from the Kernaghans, and although she doesn't know them well, she wanted to find something that the family's outer circle could do to show their support.
"In Mount Brydges, we are a small town and we're getting bigger every year. I think sometimes we need to remember our small town roots and that my neighbour is your neighbour," said Harris.
Lori Vandertuin feels the same way. She took skating lessons from Chrissy Kernaghan as a teenager, but hasn't been in close contact with the family in recent years.
But she hung her skates up on her mailbox—the same skates she wore when she was Chrissy's student.
"It's just a reminder that we're all here for the family and we wish them well," she said. "You just want to be able to come close together and help everyone out."