Ava's Fund

The Ava Jane Howerton Scholarship Fund

Each year, Paul Sutera rides his bike in support of causes that he believes in. This summer he embarked on a week-long, 500-mile ride to establish a scholarship fund in memory of Ava Jane Howerton, the daughter of a family he’s become close to over the years as their dentist. Having raised kids of his own (including Primitive Pursuits instructor Justin Sutera), Paul saw what a lasting and healthy influence that time in nature has on kids. He wanted to find a way to extend that lasting power to other kids who might lack the opportunity because of financial reasons. He believes that kids who  experience the kinds of programming that Primitive Pursuits offers will develop a lasting connection to nature, and that there is no better way to honor Ava’s lasting spirit than to help more kids get out there to enjoy it.

Ava's family lives in the Hudson Valley. So, we here at Primitive Pursuits never got to meet her in person. But we are grateful that Chris and Serena Howerton were able share this story of their daughter with us:


"In the spring of 2017, in order to be permitted to fix our old deck, the town required us to restore the protected land behind our house. This somewhat burdensome directive ended up being the beginning of something truly wonderful.

The town required us to build a split rail fence and also to plant native wetland shrubs. I'll never forget how excited Ava was to get her hands and feet dirty as she helped us plant the beautiful blueberry bushes. Handfuls of dirt and a huge smiling face are all I remember from that day. Then, once the wetland area of our back yard was finished and the deck completed, something really interesting happened: wild animals flocked to it! Ava enjoyed seeing the deer eat our newly planted bushes (even if her Dad didnt!). She was very curious when the skunk found his new stomping grounds. But most exciting was the owls. Every night just as it was getting dark, after dinner, we'd sit outside and watch an owl or two land on our fence to get his day (night) started. It's almost as if he knew Ava was watching and wanted to put on a show for us.

I will never forget these activities. And I'm sure Ava would be so happy knowing that, in some small way, she was a part of helping other people have some special experiences out there in the wilderness. I'm sure she'd thank everyone involved in helping to make this happen...most of all Paul Sutera. His generosity, perseverance, and thoughtfulness are truly remarkable."

We too would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Paul Sutera for his extraordinary effort in raising money to give more children the opportunity to get outside into nature. His journey just happened to take place during a week of epic summer storms, making the task even more challenging - and even more worthy of the outpouring of support he was able to build. Thanks to everyone who donated generously to his fundraiser! And thanks Paul!

In Paul's words, "This is about keeping Ava's spirit alive. Even though she is no longer here, her spirit will live on in giving to others."

If you'd like to join Paul in giving nature education opportunities to more kids, please mail your tax deductible donation to:

Primitive Pursuits c/o CCETC, 615 Willow Ave, Ithaca NY 14850
Make checks payable to Primitive Pursuits, with "Ava's Fund" in the memo.


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