Paralyzed Gymnast Overwhelmed By Support

(Memphis) An accident changed 13-year-old Avery Downing’s life in an instant.

She was doing a routine on the uneven bars during a practice last month when she fell and was paralyzed from the waist down.

Avery says when she landed she knew it was bad, “Whenever I fell and hit the ground I couldn’t feel my legs.”

She broke her back in two. Basically, is what damaged the spinal cord,” said her mother Sonja Clifton.

Avery spent ten days at Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Hospital and five weeks at a rehabilition center in Atlanta.

She’s now getting used to life in a wheel chair.

But the teen isn’t spending anytime feeling sorry for herself and said her gymnastics training has actually helped with her recovery, “It takes a lot of upper body strength, as you can imagine, everyone has said I had a head start with that because of gymnastics.”

Since the accident, her coach, teammates and strangers from all over the country have raised around $60,000 to help with expenses that won’t be covered by insurance.

This weekend a Zumbathon is being held for her to raise more dollars.

It’s being organized by a Southaven cheerleader she’s never even met.

“It’s really cool. It’s just cool to see everybody come together for something like this,” said Avery.

Next week, Avery will be fitted with braces allowing her to use her upper body strength to walk some with crutches.

Her mother and step-father believe she will walk on her own some day and are proud of how she’s handled everything so far.

“She has her moments, but everything that has happened it has been amazing to watch. It really has,” said Garrett Clifton.

The Zumbathon is Saturday at the Southaven Arena. Doors open at 9am.

The Avery Downing Funding has been set up at Suntrust Bank on Shady Grove Road.

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