By Dan Rankin
Evan Leversage, the seven-year-old boy who united a community and touched the hearts of people around the world when the town of St. George celebrated an early Christmas for Evan in October, passed away Sunday morning surrounded by his family at the Stedman Community Hospice in Brantford.
Visitations were held in St. George this week, while the funeral service was held yesterday.
“I feel so blessed to have had this sweet little boy in my life for the last seven years,” said Evan’s mother Nicole Wellwood. “It was like he was put on this earth with a purpose to share his love and light with everyone who met him. While my heart has broken, it is slowly being mended by the outpouring of love and support that we have received at this time.”
Evan was diagnosed with an inoperable glioma brain stem tumour two days before his second birthday. 2015 proved to be a year filled with many emotions for Evan’s family, as radiation and chemotherapy seemed to be shrinking Evan’s tumour, and his strength and mobility began improving throughout the summer.
“This past year we were under the impression Evan was doing fantastic,” said his cousin Ashley Agar, who has organized the annual Evan’s Touch The Truck event in St. Marys since 2011. This year’s event took place on Sept. 12.
“I remember standing at the event, looking around and feeling so grateful that Evan was there to enjoy it with us, and that he was unstoppable,” she said. “It was only 10 days after the event that we were given the news that his tumour was larger, and there were no more courses of treatment. Things changed so quickly from that point on.”
That’s when Evan’s doctors told the family that he may not make it to Christmas, so they might consider celebrating the holiday early, while Evan was well enough to enjoy it.
What started out as a request by Wellwood to have neighbours put their outdoor lights up a little early for Evan to enjoy, blossomed into an international outpouring of love and support from around the world. Brantford-Brant MPP Phil McColeman gave a speech about Evan’s passing at Queen’s Park on Monday. Addressing the family, McColeman said, “I know that I speak for this House in expressing our deepest condolences for your loss.” He also described what it was like to attend the Christmas parade in St. George on Oct. 24.
“The St. George parade was the most magical night of my life,” said Evan’s father Travis Leversage. “To see more than 7,000 strangers line the street for Evan and our family, their compassion really gave me a renewed hope that there is so much love in the world.”
In a press release from the family, they share a happy event that took place after Evan was admitted to the hospice; his bed was wheeled out into the family room and he was able to direct some visiting volunteer firefighters in putting together and decorating a 12-foot Christmas tree, before a special visit from Santa.
“We are so indebted to the staff and volunteer team at Stedman Community Hospice for their amazing support during this time, not just for Evan, but for me and my family as well,” said Wellwood. “It was such a huge relief coming here and not having to worry about paying for things, or administering his meds any longer. The Hospice allowed me to be Evan’s mom again, and not his caregiver. I will never forget the special moments I’ve been able to share with Evan and my family at the Hospice, because of their care and support.
“I am so thankful that Evan was able to pass away in my arms,” she said.
In a message to the Independent, Agar indicated that plans are continuing for Evan’s Touch the Truck in 2016, “and most likely for years to come.”
“The Ornge helicopter most likely will be returning, and we have a request in for the Golden Helmets to appear once more too,” she said. “So, we are carrying on.”
The only potential change to the event, she said, would be where the funds are allocated.
Proceeds from previous events have all gone towards Childcan, the Childhood Cancer Research Association. “But with the beginning of ‘Evan’s Legacy’ a fund set up to research his type of tumour, it might be divided between the two,” Agar said. “The committee will decide that, with Evan’s mother Nicole having final say.”
An obituary to Evan highlighted some of the ways people can pay tribute to Evan’s memory, including donating to the St. Joseph’s Lifecare Foundation, which support the Stedman Community Hospice, or donating to the ‘Evan’s Legacy’ fund, which support research by the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada into childhood brain cancer. Donations are also still being accepted on Evan’s Go Fund Me page, at GoFundMe.com/7w6kqyxw.
“Some say he was an angel, placed here to remind us of the important things in life,” reads the obituary. “How else can one explain the phenomenon that was Evan?”