Ashley Aven was all smiles Sunday, all thanks to the thoughtfulness of Jay and Leah Buhner and the Seattle Mariners.
Ashley is in the fight of her life against acute myeloid lukemia, and recently shared her story with The Seattle Times.
When Leah Buhner read it, she said she immediately knew she wanted to do something for Ashley and her family, and put the wheels in motion.
The Buhners donated two suites — 80 tickets — for Sunday’s game and the Avens packed it with friends — including Ashley’s Meadowdale softball team — and family. The Buhners also made arrangements with the M’s for her to throw out the ceremonial first pitch — a strike caught by Jay, who embraced her afterward.
The M’s gave Ashley her own jersey — No. 2, of course, her softball number — and Jay Buhner took her down into the dugout before that first pitch to have players sign the back. Ken Griffey Jr. spent a few extra moments with her.
There were a lot of cheers and smiles and tears up in those suites, watching Ashley being honored for her courage and inspiration she provides. Asked what it was like afterward, Ashley told King 5 TV it was “awesome.” She told me it was “fun.” King 5 ran segments on the event that evening.
We’re posting some photos here provided by the M’s as well, taken by Ben Van Houten.
Jay and Leah spent most of the game in the suite, along with their two sons (their daughter had a softball game). Jay signed any and all autographs and posed for dozens of pictures, but it was clear who he was there for, Ashley.
“She’s the hero,” he said.
Jake Locker and Lauren Greer were there for most of the afternoon as well. Jake had given Ashley an autograph football a couple of months ago and at the same time Lauren, part of UW’s run toward the national softball title last spring, provided a jersey signed by the UW players.
The Buhners presented Ashley with a gift bag that included a softball signed by Mount Si players, including Brielle Buhner plays (she’s a senior there). There was also a very cool photograph of the Mount Si players wearing the Ashley Aven support bracelets (they were all red) and all linking pinky fingers. The photo focused on the hands and bracelets — in fact no faces were included.
There was a baseball and hat signed by Jay, Griffey, Dan Wilson and Edgar Martinez — all part of that amazing playoff run back in 1995.
For Ashley, the highlight may well have come at the end of the fourth inning, when her father (Bill) made sure she was watching one of the electronic reader boards as this message came up: Ashley, Will you go to prom with me?
She turned and told Cody Kendrick yes.
Bill Aven said support continues to pour in. The Woodland Park Zoo is working on a special tour for Ashley — one of the “to-do” things on her list.
The Skyline softball team has put together a home-run derby for this Thursday, May 6, with all proceeds going to the Ashley K. Foundation (where donations are accepted at any Wells Fargo branch).
And Meadowdale is putting together a Whiffle Ball Tournament and potluck on May 23 as a fundraiser, too. Dale Cote, Meadowdale principal, said Sunday that coaches from WesCo and KingCo are putting together teams to participate. Additional information is available from Dennis Hopkins, the Mavericks’ head softball coach, at email@example.com.