Lori Sindland is holding a ‘birthday party’ fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation on what would have been her former student’s 17th birthday.
By Shelly Sindland
For a teacher, there’s nothing more painful than losing a student. It’s not the natural progression of life. Teachers dream of seeing their students grow up and graduate from college. Parents wonder where their children’s dreams will take them.
For Juri Avdiaj, his dream was simple. He wanted to be a superhero.
“One of the last gifts I gave Juri was a comic book,” said his former teacher Lori Sindland who knew him as a student at a magnet school in Hartford. “On the inside cover, I wrote, To Juri, My Superhero.”
But not even a superhero could battle what Juri fought so hard to beat.
Juri was born Nov. 15, 1999. He was always positive, extremely determined and maybe even a little stubborn, too. Juri tried really hard but in the end, wasn’t strong enough to defeat muscular dystrophy. Perhaps, that’s why he wanted to be a superhero because he knew he was in for the fight of his life.
Juri was diagnosed with a rapidly progressive form of this disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which occurs primarily in boys. At the age of 12, Juri departed our planet Earth for the next leg of his journey to “infinity and beyond.” Juri had just finished the sixth grade.
“During his last few months of his life, Make-A-Wish sent Juri and his entire family to Disney World. It was so much fun that Juri excitedly asked his parents if they could move to Florida,” Sindland said. “He always was the optimist! That trip was one of the most magical moments in his life because he got to be just a kid.”
Even superheroes need a vacation.
Nov. 15, 2016, would have been Juri’s 17th birthday. Sindland, along with Juri’s family, knew they had to do something spectacular to honor his memory. On Nov. 12, the Avdiaj family is sponsoring a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish. With the help of supporters, they hope to send another family to Disney World, so they too can have this magical experience of a lifetime.
“We are paying it forward,” Sindland said. “This is what Juri’s family wanted to do honor their son who was taken too soon. They want to give someone else a gift on Juri’s birthday.”
For Sindland, it’s personal. Nearly five years later, she still fights back the tears just mentioning his name. “He was just so special and full of life. He had the brightest smile. I know he will be there in spirit,” Sindland said.
Juri’s birthday party and pasta dinner fundraiser will be Nov. 12, 2016, at the CREC Learning Corridor Cafeteria (15 Vernon St., Hartford) from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. The suggested donation price is $20 per person. Or you can DONATE ONLINE to Make-A-Wish by clicking here to get to Juri’s page. Any donation is greatly appreciated.