If the community around Osborne High School is any indication, then society is taking a step in the right direction.
The mother of one of the school’s student-athletes is getting a piece of her life back.
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Joy Evans once was active in volunteer work and at her son Xavier’s elementary school as a paraprofessional.
“We would get up at the same time, get dressed and go to school,” said Xavier Evans, now a rising senior at Osborne and a quarterback and cornerback for the school’s football team. “She would be there all the time at school when I was there. When I got in trouble, she was there. It was better then. We were able to go do more things.”
Joy Evans, however, was diagnosed with a progressive form of multiple sclerosis, a disease that impacts the brain and spinal cord and is caused by damage to the myelin sheath — a protective covering that shields nerve cells — when her son was in middle school, and she is now confined to a wheelchair.
Since her diagnosis, it’s grown increasingly difficult for Evans to leave her house, with getting to her car next to impossible going through an uneven yard to her own driveway. With an old ramp, she was able to get from the house to her neighbor’s driveway, but she had sometimes fallen from her wheelchair. In the rain, she had to be rolled through the mud.
Xavier Evans would play football games for Osborne on Friday nights, but his mother could not be in the stands to cheer him on. Neither was his father, Tony Robertson, who is divorced from his mother and has lived in Texas since 2005.
Xavier Evans may finally get that support system again when he suits up for the Cardinals this fall.
With the help of the community, Evans now has a concrete ramp stretching from the deck on her house to the street. Though the project has not been fully completed — the ramp needs painting, and it abruptly stops at the curb due to a city ordinance — the situation for Evans is greatly improved.
“It was nice when I was able to go to a doctors appointment,” Evans said. “It was a lot easier getting toward the street, getting to a vehicle. Prior to that cement walk being put in, I would have to travel across the grass to my neighbor’s driveway. We pulled the car over there, and my neighbors said that it was fine to use her driveway because it was easier for me to get into than mine.
“This is a lot nicer. This is a lot easier.”
On getting the ramp to extend to the street, allowing her to get into her car more easily, Evans said she has had difficulty getting in touch with someone that could help with her problem.
“I made some calls (last week) trying to find out from the city or someone at the Cobb County level with streets and transportation, as to whether or not I would be breaking any type of ordinance in doing so, so they said they would get back to me.”
On top of being able to make her visits to the doctor, Evans will be able to see her son play football in the fall.
Xavier, who has taken reps this spring at both quarterback and cornerback, will likely see a greater share of playing time than he has at any other point in his career. And now his mother will be at Cardinal Field to cheer him on.
“Things are going to be a lot better,” he said. “She was there at the spring game, and that provides a lot of motivation. Just knowing that she is in the stands watching, it helps me to do my best.
“I guess it’s a great feeling. I love football, and I can just show her what I’ve done in practice, what I’ve accomplished at practice every day.”
In order for that day to come, many organizations and people were involved in getting the job done.
The whole project started with a letter.
“My caretaker, Lynn Harris, was trying to send a brief email to (talk show host) Ellen (DeGeneres), and there was some type of hang-up in her computer,” Joy Evans said. “So, she sent it to (Osborne Gridiron Club president Richard) Tinker and tried to work some bugs out. He asked if it would be OK if he shared it with some of his church members.”
And so, Tinker went to Life’s Hope Baptist Church —a mere mile-and-a-half from the Evans’ home — and asked around for any support he could get for the family.
He was able to find volunteers, but before they could work on creating a path from the front door to the street, they had to remove a stump that blocked the way.
Initially, Ace Tree Surgery was going to remove it at a discount, but then changed their mind.
“They said, ‘We’ll just take care of it,’” Tinker said. “They came over and removed the stump and there was nothing left of it. That was great. They took out all of the roots and everything out of it.”
With the stump removed, Tinker now needed to find the wood and concrete needed to create the ramp.
“I called Lafarge Concrete,” Tinker said. “Initially, someone said, ‘I can’t authorize that.’ Then, I got the name of a guy who can. His name was David Black, and I asked him about a discount. He said, ‘Just let me know how many yards you need and when you need it.’”
After getting the concrete, Tinker then went to a local Home Depot to get wood. He met manager Joe Ritchie, informed Ritchie of the project, and found out that Home Depot was actually looking to sponsor a community project.
After a handful of meetings between Ritchie, his supervisor, Dominique Bidon, and a regional manager, the Home Depot Foundation — the company’s charitable arm —emailed a form for Tinker to fill out, and he received a $900 gift card.
With the raw materials in place, all that was needed for the Evans family to get their ramp was putting in the elbow grease.
On June 27, nearly two dozen Osborne football players and coaches came to the Evans’ house. They dug out dirt to form a trench for the pathway, put the dirt into wheelbarrows and dumped it along a fence in the backyard.
“I feel like they helped a lot,” Xavier Evans said. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without them. (The project) helped us grow more as a team as well. It helped us bond some. It’s very important because a team needs to have bonds. We need to be able to trust each other. We can’t only be teammates. We have to be friends, too.
“I just want to thank the community for helping us.”
With the help of a small excavator to build a trench for concrete to be poured, a 78-foot-long walkway was ready to be filled.
The next day, the Home Depot brought volunteers from stores in the area, and they worked to put the woodwork in place and pour the concrete. Over the next two days, the volunteers not only laid the walkway, but they also tore apart the old deck for the house and rebuilt it with additional lumber.
By 4:30 p.m. on June 29, the project was done.
“You hear so much about negative things that are going on in this day and age in the community that, a lot of times, these good actions, you don’t hear much about,” Joy Evans said.