A birth­day cel­e­bra­tion for Evans

Prep lacrosse: Lacrosse team pays tribute to for­mer player on Fri­day

The Signal - - Sports - By Ha­ley Sawyer Sig­nal Sports Edi­tor

Maya Evans’ birth­day has al­ways been a big deal.

“The thing about Maya is … she made sure every­body knew it was her birth­day,” said West Ranch lacrosse coach Leesa Chelminiak. “When it was her birth­day, it was like a whole event.”

Although Evans, a for­mer West Ranch lacrosse player, died of leukemia in May, her birth­day re­mained a rea­son for cel­e­bra­tion on Fri­day evening at West Ranch High School.

For­mer coaches, team­mates, friends and fam­ily mem­bers gath­ered at West Ranch’s turf field to re­lease glow­ing pink and black bal­loons at dusk in honor of Evans’ birth­day.

Sev­eral peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with West Ranch lacrosse in­clud­ing Evans’ mother, Ni­cole, ar­ranged the event.

“I just was over­whelmed be­cause of all the love that my daugh­ter has been shown by her team­mates in high school and just the com­mu­nity,” Ni­cole said. “And just to know that they loved her and wanted to do some­thing and keep her mem­ory alive was just over­whelm­ing and I was very, very pleased.”

A crowd of slightly over 50 peo­ple car­ried bal­loons – some with birth­day mes­sages writ­ten on them – onto the turf.

Af­ter words from Chelminiak, West Ranch teacher Julie Chang and Ni­cole, the pink and black bal­loons floated to­wards the sky, car­ry­ing well

wishes for Evans with them.

“(Ni­cole) wanted to make sure that there was pink, not orange,” Chelminiak said. “Maya, ev­ery­thing was orange for leukemia aware­ness, which was great, but Maya’s fa­vorite color was pink. So to­day was about Maya.”

West Ranch girls lacrosse has per­ma­nently re­tired Evans’ jer­sey num­ber, No. 30, and has started to give out a year-end award to the player with the most drive and pas­sion. The Wild­cats’ warmups and spirit wear will also be em­broi­dered with a logo that in­cludes an orange rib­bon, a lacrosse stick in ad­di­tion to Evans’ name and jer­sey num­ber.

Ni­cole and her hus­band, Dar­ryl, will con­tinue to be in­volved in West Ranch lacrosse as well and have a son that will play for the boys var­sity team in the up­com­ing sea­son.

The fam­ily will keep Evans’ spirit alive in every way pos­si­ble.

“Maya is a part of my soul, so every morn­ing when I wake up, I’m just talk­ing to her and just us­ing her words and con­ver­sa­tions as in­spi­ra­tion to live my life,” Ni­cole said.

“She cared about other peo­ple and would want me to get up and be of ser­vice to other peo­ple and so I try my best to be of ser­vice to other peo­ple that are in my life be­cause that’s what she would want.”

Cory Ru­bin/The Sig­nal

The par­ents of Maya Evans stand on the field at West Ranch High School to cel­e­brate their late daugh­ter’s birth­day.

Cory Ru­bin/The Sig­nal

(Above) Peers of Maya Evans re­lease dozens of bal­loons in her honor at the field at West Ranch High School. (Be­low) A poster of Evans hangs at the West Ranch lacrosse field. Evans died of leukemia in May.

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