PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A child fighting cancer hundreds of miles away is inspiring South Florida.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Inspiring South Florida
Her kind deeds are prompting St. Lucie County residents to pay it forward with kindness.
Melissa McInturff, the Humane Society of St. Lucie County's executive director, sees a lot of mail coming through the doors of her operation.
But she said one letter she received during the holidays from a Pennsylvania girl named Avery really touched her.
"[It was a] gut punch to the soul. That's what I compared it to when I got on the Pawsitive Change page that Avery and her family created," McInturff said.
Avery is a 14-year-old girl who loves animals and wants to own a shelter of her own one day.
But for now, she's battling cancer and doing what she can do to help out shelters across the country with $5 gift cards.
"I think with generating $5 gift cards, that's encouraging other shelters to maybe send a $5 or $10 gift card to a neighboring shelter, and everybody gets in this cycle of paying it forward, and that's based on the will of a teenage girl," McInturff said.
McInturff was so moved by the gesture she wanted to show her thanks. She then posted on Facebook asking for help from the greater St Lucie County community, and they responded by making Avery's mission their own.
They created a Florida box for the cancer fighter complete with handmade get well and thank you cards.
With a following of more than 5,000 people on social media, Avery's Pawsitive Change is making a difference around the country and on the Treasure Coast.
"We're all fighting a battle, and it's up to us to assist people and give them a helping hand and help them fight that battle," McInturff said.
So far, she's written more than 2,000 similar letters to shelters and humane societies.
"If you ask me who my heroes are, my answer is always fellow rescuers and my shelter staff, and now I add Avery into that mix. She's handling herself with grace and with a charitable heart, so this gal In Pennsylvania is my new hero," McInturff said.
Once Avery is feeling better, she has been invited to visit the Treasure Coast and take the helm as executive director for the day at the humane society.