Less than two weeks after teenager Ava Conklin was struck and killed while waiting for a bus in The Rockaways, her mother, Chrissy Collins, sat in a quiet corner of Sullivan Street Bakery and reminisced about the 19-year old. “Ava was proud to be from Hell’s Kitchen,” she said.

The eldest grandchild of a family that has lived in the neighborhood for over five generations, “Ava was the first baby and she was just adored,” Chrissy added. “She loved family parties and holidays and running into them in the street. She had such a close bond with all of her siblings, step-siblings, and cousins — they had a little cousin gang!” she laughed.

Ava Conklin and mom Chrissy Collins
Ava Conklin and mom Chrissy Collins. Photo supplied

A former student of the Sacred Heart of Jesus School on W52nd Street and PS 51 on W44th, Ava also participated in Hell’s Kitchen’s own Rosie’s Theater Kids program and eventually attended the Talent Unlimited High School on E67th Street to study performing arts — a move that her mother credits to the family’s long theatrical legacy and proximity to Broadway. 

Chrissy is a Broadway usher at the Booth Theatre, and took Ava and her siblings to shows from a young age. “She would get to see all the Broadway shows because we have so much family involved in the theater,” said Chrissy. “When she was just four years old she saw All Shook Up — she just loved Cheyenne Jackson, and her more recent favorite was Spongebob.” 

Ava Conklin usher Booth Theatre
Ava Conklin worked as a Broadway usher alongside her mom at the Booth Theatre’s Kimberly Akimbo. Photo supplied

Chrissy recalled helping Ava rehearse to play Wednesday in her school’s production of The Addams Family, recruiting the whole family in the process. “She rehearsed with all of her siblings,” said Chrissy, “and I think she even sang to my cat at one point!” When Ava was old enough, she followed in her mother’s footsteps, working side by side as an usher at The Booth up until her passing. 

Whether she was with her friends from Talent Unlimited, Rosie’s Theater Kids, Sacred Heart or PS 51, Chrissy said, “it was Ava who brought them all together.” Her love of people and animals gave her an open, generous spirit, Chrissy added, and Ava decided to major in psychology in college with a hope of helping others. “She had the biggest heart in the littlest body,” said Chrissy.

Ava’s devotion to living things extended to the city’s green spaces and parks. “She loved nature and the stars and fairies — that’s what she believed in,” said Chrissy, recounting their family’s many adventures traveling to Iceland and Ireland. “I called her my little hippie girl.” 

Ava Conklin Portrait
Ava Conklin “was proud to be from Hell’s Kitchen.” Photo supplied

Ava was also well-known to shopkeepers around the neighborhood, who would often look out for the young Hell’s Kitchen resident on her travels around the West Side. “She could always run into any of the bodegas around here and she’d be taken care of,” said Chrissy. “Ava loved Delphinium Home, thrifting at the Salvation Army and the incense store [Scent Elate],” Chrissy added, showing us the beaded bracelet Ava had purchased there that she was found wearing when she died. 

Chrissy paused, recalling her final conversation with Ava before her daughter’s promising life was cut short. “We were all just sitting around talking as a family, going over our summer plans and checking in,” she said. “Ava told us that she had to go to work and that she loved us all — and then I got the call while I was at work at the Booth, and my worst fear came true.” 

She’s been overwhelmed by the show of support from the neighborhood, and everyone from the throngs of mourners who attended Ava’s funeral to local businesses and fellow residents has helped to carry the unimaginable grief that lies ahead. “People were telling me when they were on the line to get into the funeral that others were walking by asking, ‘Who’s being laid to rest here? Who is this huge audience for?’” said Chrissy. “She really went out like a star.” 

For now, Chrissy is attempting to work through life without Ava, although signs of her still remain all over Hell’s Kitchen — from the shops Ava frequented to the new Ben and Jerry’s ice cream store she so longingly anticipated. Chrissy was the first customer inside on opening day, ordering a mint chip cup in honor of her daughter.

She takes a small comfort in the knowledge that in just 19 short years, her daughter’s joyous, vibrant presence impacted countless others. “Every time you listen to the Beatles, Mac Miller or Gorillaz,  think of Ava — she was a huge fan,” said Chrissy. “Every time you watch Impractical Jokers, think of Ava — she loved that show,” Chrissy added, before showing me a new tattoo of Ava’s signature framed by a set of magenta show curtains. “And every time you go to see a Broadway show,” she said, “carry her with you in her heart.” 

A note of gratitude from Chrissy Collins: 

First, I would like to thank the entire Hell’s Kitchen community for their overwhelming love and support — for every text, call, message, donation, and for anyone and everyone who sent food or flowers. From the bottom of our hearts, our family sincerely thanks you!

We would also like to extend our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to my theatre The Booth, as well as the entire Shubert organization for their generosity — my union, Local 306 IATSE, my father’s union Local 817 Theatrical Teamsters, and Ava’s father’s employer, the New York Department of Sanitation. I would also like to send a special thank you to Gossip Bar and Restaurant for hosting the family after the services. 

Through this extremely difficult time, our hearts are full from the love that Ava and the family received. We are truly touched and sincerely appreciate all of the support — a testament that Ava was truly loved by all. 

Join the Conversation


  1. I did not know the young girl ava,, but i also worked in the theatre and knew many of the folks who came across the street to her wake,, to her mother i would like to send
    my condolences and sympathy to her. I hope god blesses you from now on, from the loss you suffered , somehow you will survive and go on with her memory right beside you.

  2. I only knew Ava through her grandma Kathy’s pictures and fb stories but I knew her dads family and friends many years here in broad channel My heart goes out to all of you for Ava and her life cut so short but love hearing all about f the beautiful stories and memories of this beautifully talented young lady 💔😢
    My prayers and love to all

  3. I am so sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine what you must be feeling. May god bless you and Ava 🙏🏻❤️

  4. Beautifully written Chrissy. You captured so much of Ava through this and she will never be forgotten. Your strength is to be admired. She will always be with you! Love, Krista

  5. I don’t know the young person whose life was unfairly cut short by some human garbage. Talk is cheap. But true fully, you must go on living and keep/cherish the memories of your child in your heart. Can’t imagine what you are feeling, but, it would be a good idea to seek out professional council and get yourself involved with volunteer work in your Church.

  6. It brings tears to my eyes I am a usher at met life stadium for forty years. She sounded like a shining diamond ♦️ my heart hurts for you❤️

  7. This is truly heartbreaking I didn’t no her but my sister worked in the bagel store across the street and said she was such a sweet young girl. It’s not obvious to see she’s so beautiful and my deepest condolences to you and your family on such a tragic loss of a young life. My mom had lost three of her sons, and that is very hard on her mother, to lose a child but my mom, being the strong woman she has always taught us you have to live for the living, and God only gives us what we can handle. She obviously had other children there were three of us girls left so she had to be strong for us again, I’m so sorry for your loss made a beautiful angel rest in peace.

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