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Top Stories of 2008…No. 8 – Evanfest grew into a major fundraising event to celebrate a memory

Thursday, 15th January 2009

Categories Boy's/Men's, Youth  
 

By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/15/09

In only its second year, Evanfest become a significant event for raising funds in the memory of a young lacrosse player whose life was cut short by childhood bone cancer.

Evan Brady, of Newtown Square, was a promising player at Malvern Prep when he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma. Evan died in 2005 at the age of 19, but not until he graduated from Malvern and set an example of strength and positive thinking that rubbed off on many.

To honor his legacy, Evan’s father, Bill Brady, created Evanfest, a one-day boys’ youth tournament at Malvern Prep. Last year 25 teams (U-13 and U-15) participated and the amount of funds raised more than doubled from the previous year.

What makes this event so special is that the money is given directly to families to help deal with financial and emotional needs. Brady reported that $115,000 has been provided to 37 different families since the inception of the event.

The money not only goes to defray costs for medicine and health fees, it can be used for families to plan a vacation or deal with emotional needs associated with raising a child that has a serious illness.

Also last year, a new source of fundraising occurred when a group of Evan’s friends playing college lacrosse began selling t-shirts at various colleges campuses. Evan’s younger brother,Drew Brady, also sold t-shirts at Villa Julie (Md.) while others sold them at Drexel, Villanova,Penn State, Notre Dame, Loyola and Cabrini.

More than $3,000 was raised through the sale of the t-shirts in just one month and it’s expected that sales of new t-shirts could rise this year.

This year’s Evanfest is slated for Saturday, April 18 (rain date is May 3). Bteween 26 to 30 teams are expected to participate.

“The best thing to do with the money is to give it to families with a child with a life-threatening illness,” said Bill Brady, the event chairman. “We know all too well the mental and emotional strain, but it’s also a huge financial drain.”

Evan’s story is one of courage and determination. He was diagnosed with bone cancer on September 11, 2001, and was told to forget lacrosse. He missed most of his freshman year at Malvern Prep while enduring chemotherapy and an operation to remove his femur.

But Evan wanted to stay involved with lacrosse and served as a student-coach as a sophomore and junior, crutches and all. His cancer, however, spread to his spine and lungs in his senior year.

Evan, though, remained optimistic and graduated from Malvern Prep while earning a scholarship to St. Joseph’s University based on an essay describing his experiences dealing with cancer.

But soon after graduation, Evan had his leg amputated and he died on Sept. 21, 2005. His spirit, however, continues.

“We call it a festival,” Brady said. “We stress having fun. It’s not about winning. This is one time when everybody wins.

One of Evan’s friends who sold t-shirts was Penn State’s Andrew Mackrides, the team captain last year who has since graduated.

“I was trying to get the guys to understand that, being Division I athletes, sometimes we take things for granted and we don’t understand others are struggling,” said Mackrides, an Academic All-American choice atPenn State who played with Evan at Malvern Prep. “Seeing Evan go through the struggle – and yet at the same time seeing him have the positive attitude – it was the most inspiring thing.”

To boost sales and raise awareness for the cause, Mackrides and Villanova captain Ryan Holloway, with help from the Brady family, recruited several more of Evan’s friends who were playing college lacrosse.

Those who began selling T-shirts during the 2008 season included Mike Creighton at Notre Dame, Steve Layne at Loyola, Mike Avato at Drexel, Matt Conaway at Cabrini College and Drew Brady at Villa Julie. Also,Dan Liva and Tim Atkins assisted Holloway at Villanova,Casey Gruganassisted Conaway at Cabrini and Andrew Quercetti sold T-shirts as a member of the club team at PennState.

Evan Brady never focused on his illness or pain while enduring countless chemotherapy sessions and the amputation of his right leg. Instead, he chose to laugh, spend time with friends and encourage his teammates, even serving as a student-coach for the lacrosse team at Malvern Prep after his diagnosis.

Evan was easy to spot on the Malvern sidelines, either leaning on his crutches or sitting in his patented blue seat. Evan later had his No. 19 shirt retired at Malvern and he even earned a scholarship to St. Joseph’s University for writing about his experiences dealing with cancer.

Now, almost three years after his passing, Evan’s friends say it is a joy and an honor to talk about his life while spreading the word about his fight to live life to the fullest.

“When I began selling the shirts, I basically gave them his background, and talked about the Evanfest Tournament,” said Creighton, a junior.  “I told them where the money is going to, but most kids had already heard of him on my team.

“Evan impacted thousands of people in the lacrosse community. It’s a tight community, and it feels great to carry his name and raise money for people who can’t afford some of the medical treatments.”

Added Holloway: “Sometimes you think you have it bad in life. But you saw Evan go through so much. To me, especially when something goes wrong, I have that example. I look around and say, ‘Hey things aren’t that bad.’”

Conaway, entering his senior year, said selling the T-shirts helps preserve his memory of Evan.

“It does a lot to help you remember how fortunate you are and really what a great person he was,” he said. “This is a tribute to him, and his strong, inspiring character.

“Sometimes I would be around him and I knew he wasn’t having one of his best days. I would kind of notice and adjust the person I was to him. But he’d catch me off-guard and say, ‘You still stink at lacrosse.’ I would say, ‘Oh man.’ He was always upbeat.”

Matt Dolente was mentored by Brady when he was a young player at Malvern Prep four years ago. Dolente, now a sophomore at Johns Hopkins, became a standout player and face-off specialist and helped Team USA win the International Under-19 championship during the summer in British Columba, Canada.

Dolente said he always wanted to wear Evan’s No. 19, but it was taken at Malvern Prep and also at Johns Hopkins. So, so jumped at the chance to wear 19 for Team USA in Canada.

“Before games and before warm-ups I take a knee by the sideline and say a prayer,” Dolente said. “I always think about him. I ask Evan to watch over me and keep me healthy.

“Sometimes, when luck goes my way, I consciously think that maybe it was him.”

To make a donation, access the Evanfest website or send a check, payable to EVANFEST, to PO Box 5263, West Chester, PA 19380-5263

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