This year’s back-to-school season is extra special for Avery Stier. The almost 13-year-old, who started sixth grade on Tuesday, loves everything about school—riding the bus, spending time with her friends and school staff, learning new things, and even school lunch. Like many kids, she also loves to shop for back-to-school clothes.    

Avery recently had the opportunity to showcase some of her favorite back-to-school fashions to thousands! She’s included in the 2016 Mall of America Back to School Look Book. The book features a diverse group of children and teens wearing the latest fall attire. Avery, who has cerebral palsy, proudly adds to the mix—she’s featured in her wheelchair.

Avery’s mom, Kristen Stier, describes the opportunity to model in the Look Book as a major confidence-builder. “Avery believes she can do anything now,” she says. “She isn't ashamed of being in a wheelchair or of her disability. She feels she’s just as beautiful and amazing as the other models in the Look Book!”

Continue reading for a Q&A between Gillette and Kristen Stier. You’ll discover how the Mall of America selected Avery for this exciting opportunity. You’ll also learn how treatments at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare have helped her thrive.

Q: How would you describe Avery?
A: Avery is happy nearly all of the time. She’s very loving and caring, and she has a great sense of humor! She has the most contagious smile that brightens any room she is in.   

Q: What are Avery’s favorite things to do?
A: She loves to shop, watch videos on her iPad, read books, play board and card games, spend time with our extended family, and cheer for her sisters at their volleyball games.

Q: How did your family discover Gillette?
A: Avery has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. We learned about Gillette from a family friend whose daughter receives all of her medical care at Gillette and they couldn't be happier!  

Q: How has care at Gillette helped Avery?
A: The surgeries and procedures Avery has received at Gillette help her body function to the best of its ability. Without these interventions her life would be very different. She would have less independence and potentially would feel excluded from more activities at school and in the community. She would likely be in a great deal of pain, as well.

Q: How would you describe Avery’s Gillette experiences?
A: Avery finally feels like she isn't alone. She sees other kids just like her—other kids using wheelchairs or walkers for mobility, or speech that isn't perfect. As parents, comfort comes from knowing that everyone at Gillette has a great deal of experience with children just like our daughter. They understand that everything she does, such as walking, reaching, and speaking, requires extra time and they’re very patient with her. The staff is also proactive instead of reactive. They follow her for conditions, such as scoliosis, that she may not currently have but she may be at greater risk for developing. We live more than an hour south of St. Paul, but Gillette has been worth every mile.

Q: Does Avery have a favorite doctor, nurse or other caregiver?
A: There are a handful of doctors and nurses that we see regularly. She loves them all! She is always treated with the dignity and respect that she deserves. Everyone at Gillette speaks directly to Avery and involves her in decision-making. It means a lot to her and to us as her parents.

Q: Tell us the background story of Avery’s modeling for the Mall of America Look Book?
A: Our good family friend, Sara, works at the MOA. She is a huge advocate for kids like Avery.  She thought Avery would be a great fit for the Back to School Look Book. Avery enjoyed every minute of the photo shoot!

Q: What kinds of positive feedback has Avery received?
A: So many people have seen Avery's pictures online and even in person at the MOA. Everywhere we go she is approached by someone who wants to ask about her experience, tell her how beautiful her pictures are, or tell her how beautiful her smile is. She lights up every single time it is mentioned! She is so proud!

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