7v7 Tournaments Honor Avery on 2-year Anniversary Weekend
It has been no secret how crucial the football community was and is to Avery’s fight.
Whether it was during her fight, when so many players, coaches and teams honored her, or after she passed, when teams, players and coaches continued to recognize, honor and remember her, Avery and football has remained synonymous.
On the weekend marking two years after her passing, two significant events, both in the football community, one in California and one just minutes from where her treatment was done in Tacoma, were held to give youth and high school football players an opportunity to work on their skills, play 7v7 football and more importantly, hear Avery’s story and honor her, while raising funds and awareness.
Saturday, the inaugural AveryStrong Elite 32 Tournament in Sacramento was held on the campus of Capital Christian HS.
The concept of the AveryStrong Elite 32 came from Dee Miller, who’s oldest son, Jarrell, was a recruit that Avery’s father, Brandon, covered over a decade ago, and Will Lee. They wanted to do a 7v7 tournament that gave football players an opportunity to play in the offseason, while raising awareness and funds for the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation.
“Brandon has done so much for so many young athletes that we wanted to find a way to join him in the fight against childhood cancer,” said Lee, who is based out of Georgia. “We want Avery’s story to keep the fight against childhood cancer on everybody’s mind.”
Partnering with Terrance Leonard of TMP Elite, the inaugural AveryStrong Elite 32 tournament was set for Sacramento and TMP Elite faced KT Prep Money, coached by Nathan Kenion of Kenion Training in the finals.
Leonard and Kenion were two longtime friends and colleagues of Avery’s father and were both incredible supports themselves, and their players, during Avery’s fight, with several of their former players honoring Avery in past seasons.
Several other teams that were close to the Huffman family participated, including MLU Foundation with Mori Suesue and Marcus Malu, the latter who is from Washington and both who sported AveryStrong logos on their coaches shirts.
And Lee and Miller aren’t done on the West Coast.
Doing a major tournament near where Avery grew up was extremely important to Lee and Miller.
So the AveryStrong Elite 32 Tournament will be in Seattle in April for it’s first-ever tournament in the state, the state where Avery grew up, for a one-day tournament on April 14th in what will give the Northwest an opportunity to host a true Northwest 7v7 Championship.
On Sunday, the #brAvery 7on7 Association Winter League Showcase Tournament held its championship tournament. GameReady Elite of Canada beat HEIR Black (based in Puyallup) in double-overtime on a day where there was rain, snow and sun.
The #brAvery 7on7 Association Winter League Showcase Tournament was the brainchild of Taylor Barton and Domenic Rockey.
Barton and Avery’s father Brandon have known each other for decades and Brandon would cover Taylor’s camps, with his older two kids, Alex and Cade in tow, sometimes throwing the ball around with Cade in between sessions. Rockey, like Avery, grew up in Auburn.
When Avery was diagnosed, Barton was impacted greatly by her fight and he and Barton Football have been one of the biggest financial supporters of the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation.
In fact, two years ago, just months after Avery’s passing, Barton worked with Kenion and Leonard on a camp in Northern California that was one of the first football events to ever benefit the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation- the first time the three had ever met or worked together, and it was Avery that brough the three of them together.
Now on the same weekend, a little less than two years later, the three all factored in again, quite significantly.
Taylor and his wife Jessica have ran Barton Football for years, and immediately, had been key supporters of the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation, annually donating proceeds from numerous camps and events the past two years to the foundation.
Last fall, Barton had the idea of running a 7v7 Association but wanted to tie it in to supporting the Foundation.
Enter the #brAvery 7on7 Association. The Association will ramp up in the coming months, with tournaments throughout the Pacific Northwest and teams throughout Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.
But the #brAvery name was something that Barton felt was crucial to his cause, that it was more than just football, but that it was about telling Avery’s story, honoring her and raising awareness.
Making it more personal to the Huffman family is that children of classmate’s of Avery’s mom, Amanda, are playing in it, as are the children of Avery’s teachers. Players at the local high school, Auburn Riverside, who were a part of the team that dedicated their 2015 season to Avery, during her fight, and coaches who were a part of the team, are also a part of the association.
“It has surpassed what my expectations were,” said Barton. “There were some that were familiar with it, but others that weren’t, so it’s raised awareness, and they see a bigger purpose, a bigger cause. They get to play the game they love and compete, but they get to support a greater purpose. You see the brAvery tent, you see its a bigger cause. This is a very special place in my heart, with Avery and the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation and being able to raise awareness.”
While teams won and teams lost, the focus on the weekend was not just about players getting better, players having a good time playing football in great weather (in Sacramento) and cold weather (in Tacoma), but in playing for a bigger purpose, to raise awareness and funds to fight DIPG, to continue to honor Avery and her legacy and to tell her story.
So the Avery Huffman Defeat DIPG Foundation wants to give a hearty thank you to Will Lee and Dee Miller of the AveryStrong Elite 32 Tournament, along with Terrance Leonard, who hosted the Sacramento stop, as well as to Taylor Barton and Domenic Rockey of the #brAvery 7on7 Association Winter League Showcase Tournament.
We can’t wait for the rest of the spring, for the full #brAvery 7on7 Association Tour and the Seattle AveryStrong Elite 32.
Thanks to all the teams, coaches, players, parents, families and fans that have been a part of this, that continue to support and honor Avery, let us tell her story and spread the word!