By James Boyle
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/7/13
For seven years the name of a Malvern Prep graduate and lacrosse athlete has been synonymous with charity: Evan Brady.
Evan, who tragically lost his life after a long struggle with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer), meant a lot to the people around him. Now, EVANFEST – the annual fundraising event named in his memory – means just as much to people who never knew him.
EVANFEST, a day-long youth lacrosse tournament, raises money for families of children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, and it does it extremely well. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the annual event have already helped over 150 families.
The fundraiser, started by Evan’s father, Bill Brady, has raised over $600,000. On Saturday the 7th annual EVANFEST drew several thousand people to celebrate lacrosse with 46 youth boys’ teams from the Delaware Valley, as well as a high school game between host Malvern Prep and West Chester East.
Malvern, the No. 2 ranked team in the Phillylacrosse.com rankings, won the high school game, 14-1. But at EVANFEST winning and losing is not the focus; it is giving, or at EVANFEST, it’s called “Laxgiving.”
“It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are or how much insurance you have,” said Brady. “It takes a lot of money to care for a sick child … That’s what our goal was, to just raise money and then write checks, no questions asked, no strings attached for [families] to use as they see fit.”
Just how much Evan means to Malvern Prep and the people who knew him is undeniably evident. Pictures and stories about Evan line the perimeter of Quigley Field where middle schoolers play the game he loved.
Evan was diagnosed with cancer in September 2001, his freshman year at Malvern. The disease forced Evan to give up playing lacrosse, but it couldn’t keep him off the field. While at Malvern, he frequently attended practices and games, serving as a coach and constant reminder that giving up was not an option.
While in middle school, Evan played both football and lacrosse. He was a physical presence in both sports, taking faceoffs as a midfielder in lacrosse and playing linebacker, fullback and tight end in football.
“He was a man-child,” said Evan’s friend and former Malvern Prep lacrosse player Tommy Dunn, referring to his size. “I played against him in the Keystone games. We were going into our freshman year. I remember watching him play and being very excited that he was going to be a teammate of mine.”
Malvern Prep made it to the state finals in Evan’s freshman year, and the players from that team have not forgotten his impact on them all.
“On our trip to Vail,” said Dunn about a time several years later, “Evan’s cancer had been in remission a little bit, and we went out there and Evan was pretty much our head coach … And he had just found out before we went out there that the cancer came back and it was pretty serious again.
“And he didn’t let anybody know until we came back. He didn’t want anybody thinking about him. It was all about the team.”
The team at Malvern Prep has grown in his honor. More than 100 volunteers from the school – students, parents, graduates and friends of Evan continues to help run the event every year.
A fierce competitor and loyal teammate, Evan never stopped fighting. Sadly, after graduating Malvern Prep and receiving a scholarship from Saint Joseph’s University, Evan lost the battle with cancer. He was 19 years old.
“(He was) a caring, loving individual,” said Evan’s younger brother, Drew, a former All-American at Penncrest. “He was very competitive, definitely. Definitely courageous. He had a lot of fight in him until the day he passed. He always had a positive attitude even when things were looking grim.”
That positive attitude can be felt throughout EVANFEST by those who knew Evan best and continue to carry on his legacy when they gather every year to help families continue fighting, just like Evan.