On March 4th, 11-year-old Karaline Apoian was watching on television with her father as her beloved Georgia Swarm was on the road taking on the Albany Firewolves. As they were watching the game, Karaline’s dad had a feeling that something was wrong.
They didn’t see Swarm goalie Craig Wende in uniform for the game.
“We realized that Craig wasn’t on the bench and it was another goalie there,” said Patrick Apoian. “I wondered did he get hurt or traded?”
The following Sunday (March 12th), Apoian had arranged for his daughter’s lacrosse team to be on the field for the Swarm’s game against the Rochester Knighthawks at Gas South Arena.
With Karaline and her West Forsyth Navy teammates set to welcome the Swarm onto the field before the game, it became clear why Wende had been absent from the team.
“We were on the field and did the tunnel,” said Karaline. “They asked for a moment of silence and then “Avery Tessa Wende” popped up on the board.”
Avery Tessa Wende was born four months premature on February 24th at 1 pound 3 ounces and sadly had passed away on March 3rd.
“I felt really sad and just wanted to do something,” said Karaline.
The instinct for Karaline to lend a helping hand kicked in because her father had instilled in her and her brother at a young age to do one random act of kindness a day. Karaline’s initial thought was to send a card to the Wende family which in of itself is certainly more than just a random act of kindness.
But Patrick thought about a lacrosse documentary that he watches frequently and suggested to Karaline that maybe there could be something bigger that could be done.
“I’m big for teaching the tradition of lacrosse,” said Patrick. “I watch “The Medicine Game” all the time and all of the documentaries on lacrosse. They call it the medicine game for its ability to heal and help with the healing process.”
And then Karaline came up with the idea of an initiative based on every goal that she scores for her team and then challenge other players at all levels of lacrosse to do the same and donate money to the children’s hospital in their communities.
And that’s how #GoalsForAvery was created.
Karaline Apoian is dedicating her season to Avery writing “A.W.” on her stick and she will donate $5 in Avery Wende’s name to her local children’s hospital for every goal she scores this season. Anybody who wants to join in the initiative can either match Karaline’s goal total or come up with a tracker of their own for goals, points, saves, turnovers or anything else of your choosing.
So far this season (as of Wednesday), Karaline has three goals and four assists in three games. Her ultimate goal is to carry on Avery Wende’s legacy and to help other children and families who are going through a difficult time.
And now the challenge has been issued to anyone who wants to help and all of the information is available on the Georgia Swarm website…
It was a terrible tragedy that struck Craig Wende and his family, but they are overwhelmed by Karaline’s efforts and the response from the entire lacrosse community.
“When I got the news of Karaline and her initiative I was blown away,” said Wende. “My family and I suffered a huge loss with Avery passing away, and the fact that a young individual like Karaline wanted to do something so special to honor Avery’s legacy is incredible. My family and I have got a lot of support from fans, teammates, and players across the league to help us through this difficult time and I can’t thank everyone enough. Karaline will forever be a part of my family for what she is doing and Avery’s legacy will forever live on.”
It’s been a very emotional time for the Wende family, everyone associated with the Georgia Swarm organization as well as the very tight-knit group that is the lacrosse community across North America.
“We wanted to help,” said Apoian. “It’s been very well received. I really didn’t realize how big it had gotten in the lacrosse community.”
Just how big #GoalsForAvery had become really hit home last Friday when Karaline and her dad were invited by the Georgia Swarm to attend the morning shootaround ahead of that night’s game against the New York Riptide.
That’s when Karaline was able to meet Craig Wende and spend some time with him.
“It was really exciting and overwhelming. Just meeting one of my role models in lacrosse was really fun and also getting to spend the day with him was interesting and exciting,” said Karaline.
After the Swarm were done with their shootaround, they went through some team meetings but then the New York Riptide came on the field for their shootaround. Riptide defenseman Jordi Jones-Smith noticed Karaline sitting in the stands.
“He came over and handed Karaline a ball and said I just want to shake your hand and thank you for everything you’re doing,” said Patrick.
“That just made me really happy,” said Karaline. “It made me feel like there were other people that knew about it and it wasn’t just people here (in Georgia).”
At the Riptide/Swarm game that night, Karaline took part in a ball shoot challenge. She had one minute to score as many goals as she could from 20 yards out. Karaline scored 16 goals and is making a $5 contribution for each one of those tallies.
Needless to say, the entire lacrosse community is supporting #GoalsForAvery in a very big way.
“I’m very appreciative,” said Karaline.
“They’re all just wonderful guys,” said Patrick of the players in the National Lacrosse League. “Everybody is so down to earth.”
This tragedy has brought the lacrosse community together.
As Craig Wende and his family continue to go through the grieving process, they know that they have the love and support from everyone in and around the National Lacrosse League as well as all levels of the game.
“The number one thing is to makes sure that everybody remembers that this is about Avery and memorializing her and to help the Wende family,” said Patrick. “It’s not something you can get over…it’s something you go through.”
There can’t be enough random acts of kindness in the world. Thanks to Karaline Apoian, her family and the lacrosse community, the #GoalsForAvery initiative is helping a family go through a very difficult time while also assisting others and bringing everyone in the sport of lacrosse together.