By Brooke Greene
Editor In Chief
A local Hutchinson family touched the city’s hearts last year.
There were fundraisers and drives all over town, in hopes to help them get back to a sense of normal. Many people participated, whether they were high school students in support of their coach and teacher, or Bogey’s employees pushing the Mrs. Evans shake.
Today, an update is offered on the recovery of Clayton Evans and family.
“My recovery is going as planned,” said Clayton Evans, a HutchCC alumnus and current Hutchinson High teacher and softball coach. “Everything I learned at Craig Hospital in Colorado, I am able to use back home as I try to get back to my normal routines in Hutchinson. I was able to do some more physical therapy when I got back home to help keep my recovery going as hoped.”
Evans sustained serious back injuries in a golf-cart accident last summer. He is paralyzed from the waist down.
To the best of his abilities, Evans’ career has gone back to the way it was. His colleagues are helpful and his students are accommodating.
“Now that my truck is modified, I can drive myself to work and take my kids to school,” Evans said. “The guys who run the shop classes at the high school allow me to park inside during the winter because it takes me a good five to six minutes to get in and out. My students are wonderful, and have taken on some things to make my life easier even though I never asked for it. My neighbor teacher has helped me so much and taken a lot to make my life easier. She is amazing. Shout out to Mrs. Lusk. My high school has gone above and beyond to make sure my work life is going smoothly.”
His high school coaching will resume in late February, with the first practice session, and he just started doing some preseason work with his softball team. He is also coaching his daughter’s basketball team, as he has for his son in previous years.
“Feb. 28 is the first day of softball practice, and I can’t wait,” Evans said. “I’m nervous, but I know my coaching staff and players will help in any and every way possible. My (athletic director, Kevin Armstrong) has made sure I have everything I need to be successful. I’ve met with my assistant coaches a couple times to talk about the upcoming season and we tried to talk through some scenarios and what all our roles will be. My assistants have been incredible and are so supportive.”
From another perspective, his wife, Melissa Evans, has spoken on behalf of the family with an update about their new home. It was announced last year that the family would be purchasing a specially-made home built by students in the building trades program at Hutch High.
With a modified floor plan suited to Clayton’s disability, the home is expected to make life much easier.
“The home is going well,” Melissa said. “Aaron Rayl is the instructor in charge of the program and he’s done such a great job communicating with us and keeping us up-to-date. It’s funny because early on, when Clayton was still in Colorado, I couldn’t bring myself to care about anything other than making sure it was wheelchair accessible. All the small decisions seemed so trivial and unimportant while we were focusing on Clayton’s rehab. Now that he is home and we are getting back to our new normal, we’ve started to have fun picking out different things for our home. The Cabinet Store, A&A Appliances and Western Supply Co. have been so great to work with. At this point, they are thinking it’ll be finished sometime in June.”
The home is definitely something to look forward to and is such an exciting new chapter in the Evans’ family journey. It wasn’t too long ago that bringing Clayton home to Hutch from Colorado was a worrisome concept. With plenty of new things to adapt to and a complete lifestyle change to consider, the family has done incredibly well in making their father and husband feel at home.
“Clayton caught a stomach bug about a week after coming home and that was tough,” Melissa said. “We were used to being at Craig where nurses were a button-press away, and a week into this newness, before we’d even really found our footing, we were dealing with something we’d never dealt with and it was hard. And scary. And overwhelming. And made us question if we brought him home too soon, what we did wrong, and if this is what life was going to be like. Fortunately, Dr. Scott Pauly at the Hutchinson Clinic has been so wonderful.”
Along with the help of locally-owned The Medicine Shoppe, they were able to adjust in a timely manner to Clayton’s needs.
Their two kids, Max and Isabella, have been remarkably positive throughout the journey. At such a young age, they have managed to gain a sense of maturity that a lot of kids don’t have to. From going back and forth to Colorado to visit their dad in rehab, readjusting their own idea of normality, and even furthermore, aspiring to be just like their dad, these kids have handled the situation well.
“As a mother, I’ve never been prouder of my kids,” Melissa said. “I didn’t realize it at the time but Clayton kept track of the days he was gone and how many of those he actually got to see the kids. I think it was something along the lines of seven out of 100 days. I anticipated a lot of questions and frustrations from them. Instead, they have stepped up in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Max misses no opportunities to force his dad to play ball with him still, and Isabella is constantly watching to see how she can help him. Max asked for his own wheelchair for Christmas, and I thought a Spider-Man bike would suffice. However, he’s still asking for one so we have a pediatric wheelchair ordered for his birthday in March. And even though it feels a little ridiculous to buy a wheelchair for an able-bodied kiddo, I think that that has to make Clayton feel good that Max still wants to be just like his daddy, and what a testament that our kids don’t need us to be perfect. They just need us to be present. Clayton has always been such an involved, loving father and that hasn’t changed.”
After losing a lot of family time together with Clayton having spent so much time in Colorado, the family took their time getting back into a routine when they were reunited at home. This put a setback in family fun time, but having Clayton home was a precious feeling. Christmas break offered a great opportunity for some free time.
“We lost a lot of time together as a family so just getting back into our routine of going to Hutch High games and waking up early for our own kiddos’ games on Saturday mornings, that’s all we wanted to get back to and it feels so good to be here. We have great friends who hosted a friends’ dinner when we first got back and we went out with family and friends over break. It honestly felt so good to do things we did before Clayton’s accident and to see it was possible,” Melissa said. “We also took Isabella to a Van Gogh exhibit over Christmas break, and Clayton and I talked about how nice it was to see we can still do those things. It’s so funny, because we agree to do these things and it never fails that after we get home, we both vocalize being so nervous about running into problems we didn’t anticipate. Overnight stays require a lot of planning and packing so we’re holding off on those for a while. But softball season is gearing up, so we’ll be back to spending our evenings at Fun Valley, cheering on the Salthawks in no time.”
The Evans’ family is built on a sturdy foundation of trust and love. Such a tragedy would have severely impacted any family, but it takes one to come out of such a tragedy even stronger. There will always be challenges in their way, and while few of us can genuinely understand what it is like to be where they have been, it is important that we as a community continue to encourage this strong family while Clayton continues to recover.
“The progress I would say I have made is simply becoming stronger little by little,” Clayton said. “There is a lot of technique that is important for my recovery, but having my strength back has helped and made tasks easier. I’ve heard it can take up to 18 months until my body has healed as much as it can. I’ll never give up on the idea of walking again, but I also know I can live a long and wonderful life like I am now if I don’t walk again.”