UA’s Nico to help raise money for kids

Published 12:23 am Friday, July 20, 2012

A big smile and a big heart – it’s a winning combination describing 3-year-old Abby Gunter and Andalusia native, two-time BSC National Championship team member Nico Johnson.

On Saturday, the two, along with Jaimere Cater of McKenzie, will be at Green Tree Christian Fellowship Church where Johnson will be signing autographs to raise money to help defray the children’s medical expenses.

UA football star and Andy native Nico Johnson with Abby Gunter.

Gunter is the daughter of Troyce and Debbi Gunter of Niceville, Fla., and the granddaughter of Reda and Odis Gunter of Gantt. She and two other children were adopted by the Gunter family from an African orphanage. Born without legs, the now-3-year-old Abby is mobile using a walker and a set of prosthetics – very expensive prosthetics, said her mother, Debbi.

“Abby is a bilateral amputee, and she’s just gotten her third pair of prosthetics,” Mrs. Gunter said. “When we started, Abby’s prosthetics were real short, and as she’s gotten used to them, they get taller and taller. Right now, she doesn’t have any knees, and the plan is to raise her an inch each month to make her taller.

“But she’s 3, and is growing like a weed,” she said. “Which means new prosthetics every three months.”

Mrs. Gunter said the family has insurance, but is required to pay 15 percent of the cost out of pocket – or $2,000 – but the family doesn’t mind.

“Abby has a great personality,” Mrs. Gunter said. “She’s so fun-loving. She lights up a room when she comes in.”

It’s a major difference from when the family picked her up in Africa nearly two years ago, Mrs. Gunter said.

“At the orphanage, which was a great Christian place, they just didn’t know what to do with her,” she said. “To look at her now, though, you’d never know she spent all day in a crib there.”

The Gunter family will be on hand Saturday, as will those in support of Carter, who was born with Spina Bifida and a seizure disorder.

Event organizer Tammy Pickrel of Andalusia said printed photos will be available for purchase, but those attending should feel free to bring any memorabilia for Johnson to sign.

“We ask that you limit that to three items, and all we ask is that you make a donation for all signatures,” she said. “We will have a National Championship picture on display, autographed by (Johnson) and some of his teammates, that we will be selling chances on along with other items.”

Pickrel described Johnson’s charitable actions as a “blessing to the communities around him.”

“He’s an amazing athlete and a positive role model for the children that follow,” she said. “I hope the community comes out to help us make a difference in the lives of these children and all others involved.”

Green Tree Christian Fellowship is located on U.S. Hwy. 84 East, and the event will be held from 10 a.m. until noon. All proceeds will go to medical expenses for Gunter and Carter.