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Student, golfer Smith dies at 17
Averi Smith
Averi Smith

Averi Smith’s motto was “No tears, all smiles.”

“If you were going to come into her hospital room and you were going to cry, then you couldn’t go in,” said her mother Kristi Smith, laughing. “You were not welcome at all. She was a sassy little thing.”

Averi, 17, passed away Thursday at Egleston Children’s Hospital from complications with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

The Gainesville High School junior described as “sassy” and “feisty” by those who knew her was first diagnosed with a disease called Wilms tumor, a form of kidney cancer, at just 17 months.

She was at stage 3 out of four, requiring chemotherapy and radiation.

“From the radiation that she received from the Wilms tumor at 17 months old, that is why she got the cancer again at 17,” Kristi Smith said. “It was from the radiation.”

While surgery was a possible treatment, there was a poor prognosis. Averi didn’t want to take a chance, her mother said.

“Even on Nov. 25 when we went to go see the orthopedic surgeon oncologist and he told the extensiveness of the surgery that it would require and what was involved,” Smith said, “she walked out and she looked at her dad and I, and she said, ‘I can’t do it. I choose quality of life over quantity of life. If I have this surgery, I will not have a quality life.’”

She loved to play golf and was on the high school’s championship-winning team.

“I would probably best classify her as extremely competitive,” her coach, Clay McDonald, said. “She was really passionate about golf. She had aspirations to play after high school. She just really enjoyed the game.”

Along with golf, Averi was a stellar student with plans to complete her high school credits early.

“She was on task and ahead of target for graduating,” teacher Stephanie Hulsey said. “She was going to do dual enrollment.
“The kid was just a bright bit of sunshine in everyone’s life,” she added.

A Celebration of Life is scheduled for 5 p.m. today, at the Chattahoochee Country Club golf course. Instead of flowers, the family is requesting donations be given either to the nonprofit CURE Childhood Cancer or to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.

“For me, I miss her,” Hulsey said. “I mean, she faced death and just walked toward it. She was the bravest person I have ever known.

“Hopefully she’s playing golf with LeeAnn Noble right now.”

Noble, a 2011 Gainesville High graduate and golfer, passed away in March following difficulties stemming from a January cardiac event.

“In the end, Averi made her decisions and she touched a lot of lives,” Kristi Smith said. “She was a very strong individual. She was a fighter. Oh my goodness, she was a fighter.”