Jan. 17, 2013
Misty Volaski, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ojai native Cody Fullenwider’s story starts out like those of many small town kids: after graduation, he moved far away from home and made something of himself.
But his story took an agonizing detour from normal the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, when his adopted home of Sandy Hook, Conn., was thrust onto the national news scene after the murder of 26 educators and children.
One of those children was Avielle Richman. To her, Fullenwider was “Uncle Cody,” her parents’ close friend and a frequent visitor to her home. The pair were good buddies who loved to color and read books and practice archery in the backyard.
Avielle and her parents, Jennifer Hensel and Jeremy Richman, were Fullenwider’s Connecticut family.
“I spent Christmas (2011) with them,” Fullenwider remembered. He was excited to spend another holiday season with them, so that he and “Avie” could bake cookies in the Easy Bake Oven she’d asked for.
“I’m probably a little biased, but she was the smartest, most wonderful little girl,” he said. “I loved to watch her grow, she was becoming quite a good reader, and she was just getting into writing, starting to do full sentences.”
Fullenwider keeps a token of Avielle’s hard work, a handwritten birthday card, on his refrigerator. “She was so proud of herself,” he noted. “All by herself she wrote everything out, ‘Happy Birthday Cody, Love Avie,’ with pictures of cats and all kinds of drawings. She was so proud of that … It’s a reminder of how much I love that little girl.”
Because of his loss, Fullenwider is throwing his support behind his friends in their effort to stop a similar tragedy from happening again.
In memory of their daughter, the family has started The Avielle Foundation. According to a press release from the family, the nonprofit organization aims to prevent future violent acts with a two-pronged approach — through mental health research and advocacy, and by fostering strong communities.
“Too little is known in the mental health area in regard to what drives such horrible behaviors,” the release said. “It is all too common to look back and say, ‘there was always something a little wrong with that person.’ Clearly something is wrong with the person capable of such atrocities. We want to understand the mental underpinnings that lead to this and prevent them from leading to violence, through mental health research, education, and policy.”
The second goal of the foundation, the family went on to say, is to build communities where “everyone belongs and is a valuable contributor. In such communities people don’t feel ostracized, stigmatized, bullied or alienated and the propensity to act in desperate, destructive or violent ways is diminished or eliminated.”
To donate to their efforts, send checks payable to The Avielle Foundation at P.O. Box 686, Newtown, CT, 06470. Visit www.aviellefoundation.org for more information.