Published on www.sjlc.ca/ news on Monday,18 April, 2016

Evan’s Army will be marching in the upcoming Hike for Hospice in memory of a little boy who brought together a community.

The 12th annual hike will be held on Sunday, May 1, in support of Stedman Community Hospice, where seven-year-old Evan Leversage spent the last four weeks of his life.

Evan, who was terminally ill with an inoperable brain tumour, inspired thousands to celebrate an early Christmas in St. George last October. Evan died on Dec. 6 at the hospice.

“When you walk through the doors and feel like your hope is gone, they restore your hope,” Evan’s mother Nicole Wellwood said of hospice staff. “The nurses and staff are so tuned into your needs. Everything was looked after so I could just be a mom. They made sure our family had our time alone with Evan at the end without the chaos.”

Hike for Hospice organizers are hoping to surpass last year’s fundraising total of $275,133. Upward of 2,000 people are expected to participate.

Evan’s family and friends hope to raise at least $7,000.

The hike includes a one-kilometre route around the neighbourhood of St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre, 99 Gretzky Pkwy., which participants are encouraged to do as many times as they wish.

Evan’s early Christmas, complete with a parade and snow, attracted attention around the world through newspaper articles, television reports and social media. More than 7,000 people turned out for the parade and Christmas lights were put up in areas all across North America in tribute to the dying youngster.

Wellwood said hospice staff continued the holiday theme, letting Evan’s family set up a Christmas tree in his room and creating space to pin up some of the hundreds of cards he received from well-wishers.

“Losing Evan left a big hole in this family,” said Wellwood. “We’re working hard to continue his legacy.”

At Easter, Wellwood and her family hosted a dinner for oncology in-patients at Hamilton’s McMaster Hospital. An effort called Evan’s Legacy has raised more than $70,000 for brain cancer research. There is even preliminary work being done on a children’s book about the St. George boy.

Wellwood said Evan’s Army, which will include his brothers, Logan, 9, and Tyson, 5, is welcoming others to join the team.

“We want the community to join us – to walk in honour of Evan or of someone else they care about.”

The annual hike is the only fundraising event done for the hospice.

“Our goal has always been to ensure that no hospice patients or family ever gets a bill for the care they so desperately need and deserve,” said Olga Consorti, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Lifecare Foundation. “We combine all the efforts of our staff, volunteers and sponsors to have one incredible event for the community.”

Hikers who register and raise $50 in pledges will be entered into two early bird draws. One draw was held March 24. The second one will be held April 22. Prizes include a gym membership, a Fitbit, and a 40-inch flat screen TV. Participants must register by April 21 to be entered into the draw.

There are also prizes for top fundraisers, including a choice of a $1,500 gift certificate for a vacation package donated by Goliger’s Travel Plus or a Via Rail voucher valued at $1,750 for a return trip for four anywhere between Brantford and Montreal.

Sharp Bus Lines is donating buses to shuttle hikers from Lynden Park Mall to the hike site. Everyone who parks at the mall will be entered into a draw for a $250 mall gift card.

Anyone who collects $100 or more in pledges will be entered into a draw to win a 48-inch flat screen TV. Hikers also will receive a limited edition pair of Hike Sunglasses for every $250 they collect, along with a ballot to win other prizes.

Hike festivities begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 1 with a Celebration of Life service to honour those lost and those who are living with a life-threatening illness.

Early registration and check-in is set for Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the St. Joe’s parking lot at 99 Wayne Gretzky Pkwy., off of Chatham Street, where the hike begins and ends. Pre-registration is encouraged at www.stedmanhike.ca. Donations also can be made online.

The registration fee for all hikers is $20, which includes a hike T-shirt and barbecue after the event.

Registration on hike day, May 1, starts at 11 a.m. The hike begins at 1 p.m.

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