Seven years ago, budding 16-year-old actor Avery Gray was auditioning at the Jewish Community Center when a shooter opened fire, shooting and killing two people. One of the victims was 14-year-old Reat Underwood, with whom Avery had acted in Damn Yankees, a Theatre in the Park production the previous summer.
“Obviously, the whole experience was extremely difficult and very traumatic,” Avery said in a phone call from New York, where she now lives and works. “It really was the beginning of my journey working on social justice issues, including gun violence.”
Her involvement with Grandparents for Gun Safety began in 2020 when, as a social media adviser in Chicago, she suggested better ways of using social media to promote the organization. She helped launch the GGS Instagram account, recommended posts and more recently was part of the communications committee’s work changing the organization’s name.
Avery also knew of the organization through her grandmother and GSS member, the late Barbara Freidberg. Avery attended Blue Valley North High School before moving with her family to Chicago and completing high school at the Chicago Academy for the Arts. She then graduated from New York’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy, majoring in musical theater.
Now living in upper west side Manhattan and working in marketing for a private Pilates studio, Avery continues auditioning for parts in film and television while also writing a romantic comedy screenplay, composing its music and still posting on Instagram for GGS.
“We’re so fortunate to have Avery helping us develop messages to appeal to younger people who can stand with us,” said Judy Sherry, GGS president and founder. “She’s a perfect example of why it’s so important to spread the word to people of all ages.”