SAUGATUCK — Five months after a Saugatuck firefighter lost his young daughter to brain cancer, the department is honoring her memory with an inscription on one of their firetrucks.
On Feb. 20, 2018, Capt. Mike Betts' 7-year-old daughter Avery was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive brain tumor found at the base of the brain. Approximately 300 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with a DIPG tumor every year, usually between the ages of 5 and 9 years old.
Doctors initially estimated Avery would survive fewer than six months due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, but she lived for more than 16 months before she died in June.
The community immediately offered up their love and prayers, with some offering financial support as well, but many were left wondering what more they could do to help the Betts family.
"Everyone felt inadequate with our response (when she died), and for us, this was part of a healing process," said Saugatuck Fire Chief Greg Janik. "We wanted her name on that truck because it's a reminder of what she means to us."
The sticker that now adorns engine 2112 reads, "In memory of Avery June Betts, superhero, 2011-2019." Fire Board member Dan Fox brought the idea of the commemorative inscription to Janik, and the department worked with their IT Director Erik Kirchert to create the design, which was placed on the truck on Nov. 18.
"Gratitude is what comes to mind the most," Betts said. "I'm very thankful that they wanted to honor her in that way."
Avery was an inspiration, Janik says, and the department wanted to have a permanent reminder of that on display.
"For me, it's a bond," Janik said. "We're a family and we work closely together, and when somebody is in pain, that pain extends to us. We're human beings. Avery was our superhero, and we didn't want to lose that perspective. It's a reminder, so we don't forget what she stands for."
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