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Inside Richie Sambora's Sweet Relationship with Daughter Ava, 26: She 'Means Everything to Him' (Exclusive)

The musician shares his daughter with ex Heather Locklear

<p>Mike Coppola/Getty Images For The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame</p>  Ava Sambora, inductee Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi and Orianthi attend the 33rd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Auditorium on April 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Mike Coppola/Getty Images For The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Ava Sambora, inductee Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi and Orianthi attend the 33rd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Auditorium on April 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Richie Sambora's number one priority is his daughter Ava.

Eleven years after leaving Bon Jovi in the middle of their world tour in 2013, Sambora's priorities have shifted, with the musician choosing to focus on his family, a source tells PEOPLE.

"Richie and Ava are very close. It's his girl," the insider says of the rocker's 26-year-old daughter. "She means everything to him and always has."

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<p>Frederick M. Brown/Getty</p> Richie Sambora (L) and actress Ava Sambora attend the 2014 Radio Disney Music Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on April 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Richie Sambora (L) and actress Ava Sambora attend the 2014 Radio Disney Music Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on April 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Related: Richie Sambora Beams Over Daughter Ava's Success as She Gets Her Masters: 'I'm Really Proud' (Exclusive)

Richie has always had his daughter on his mind, even when he was away touring, the source adds.

"Richie flew all the way back from Australia to be there with Ava for Halloween when she was a kid. Richie went to Louisville for Barnstable Brown at the Kentucky Derby, played there, and was due for an event for his kid the next morning on a Saturday. He flew home [and] missed the derby to be there with her."

After he left Bon Jovi, Richie spent a lot more time with his daughter. "He would drive Ava to school. She had been going through a lot and he was there for her," the insider says. "He would wake up in the morning and make her breakfast."

<p>L. Cohen/WireImage</p> Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora with daughter Ava.

L. Cohen/WireImage

Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora with daughter Ava.

Richie shares his daughter with ex Heather Locklear.

In November, the guitarist shared with PEOPLE how proud he was of his daughter as he revealed she was getting her master's degree.

"Ava is killing it. She's basically practicing psychology," the rocker dad told PEOPLE, adding that Ava got her master's and was "getting ready to go for a doctorate."

"She's doing a little prerequisite work at gathering that, but she came right out of school and.... I mean, I'm really proud of her. She's doing really, really well."

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