By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/15/13
In a heartwarming display of support, more than 225 attendees and several notable speakers participated Thursday night in the Second Annual EVANFEST Lacrosse Dinner at Drexelbrook in Drexel Hill.
The event raised money for the EVANFEST Foundation, which has helped provide more than $650,000 to 175 families with as they care for a child with a life-threatening disease. EVANFEST is named after Evan Brady, a youth lacrosse standout who fought osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) for several years until passing away at the age of 19 in 2005.
The eighth annual EVANFEST lacrosse festival will be held on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Malvern Prep. EVANFEST draws more than 40 boys’ youth lacrosse teams in the U-15 and U-13 divisions.
Thursday’s event featured three guest speakers and Master of Ceremonies Brian Dougherty, a US Lacrosse Hall of Famer whose first freshman as coach at Chestnut Hill College, Shane Franzone, received a grant from EVANFEST after being diagnosed with a rare blood disease. Franzone has since recovered after spending 10 months in the hospital and undergoing a bone marrow transplant.
One of the speakers was former La Salle College and Villanova great Eddie DiDonato, another benefactor who suffered multiple gunshot wounds in an Olde City incident almost four years ago. He, too, has made an amazing recovery and spoke about the healing power of EVANFEST.
Other speakers featured US National team finalist and Major League Lacrosse champion Matt Mackrides, a Malvern Prep and Penn State great whose mentor was Evan Brady; and Mackrides’ renowned coach at Penn State, Jeff Tambroni, who brought tears with his stories about overcoming great losses and adversity.
EVANFEST was founded by Evan’s father, Bill Brady, who along with his wife Patrice and son Drew remains a major driving force behind the Foundation. But Brady cited the immense roles played by the EVANFEST planning committee, which features a group of Evan’s friends; and the Malvern Prep community.
“It’s a testament to who Evan was,” said Mackrides, “To see this support in our Second EVANFEST banquet is overwhelming. And to have Jeff Tambroni come down from Penn State to be a part of it is special to me and I am sure to the Brady family.
“The Philadelphia lacrosse community is a close-knit group. We try to emphasize how tough and gritty we are as players, but when it comes to situations like this you can tell how close we are and how much we want to support a cause like EVANFEST.”
Mackrides told the gathering how Evan – who had to give us playing lacrosse at Malvern Prep while fighting his cancer and served as a volunteer coach – encouraged him and even told him he would become the best player ever in Pennsylvania.
“I grew up playing sports with Drew and Bradys were my neighbors Evan was always there and always put others first,” Mackrides said. “That’s what this event is about and what the EVANFEST foundation is about; putting others before ourselves and giving to a great cause in Evan’s name and Evan’s memory.”
DiDonatom, who has endured 12 operations since the shooting, said EVANFEST reached out to him for monetary support.
“It came out of the blue one day; Mr. Brady called me and said EVANFEST wanted to give me a grant,” said DiDonato, who played against Evan as a youth player. “I tried to say, ‘No’ and he wouldn’t accept that answer. It took some monetary stress off me and helped me pursue several types of treatment.
“It was real comforting to get that help from people in the lacrosse community. They rally around lacrosse players; that’s what great about this foundation and for that I am ever grateful.
“Especially since I considered Even a friend and knew the person he was and the battles he fought. He was on Rosetree Optimist and he used to kick the bleep out of us. He was pretty much considered the best player coming into high school in our area, but when he was struggling with cancer he always had a huge smile and wasn’t talking about himself.
“He wanted to know how everyone else was doing.”
They are doing just fine – thanks Evan!