Teen wants toys for her 17th birthday

Published 5:52 pm Monday, August 26, 2013

DUHS junior Cassidy Evans might want to become a funeral director.

DUHS junior Cassidy Evans might want to become a funeral director.

Cassidy Evans isn’t your typical teenager.

For her 17th birthday Sept. 11, the Union High School junior wants lots of presents — but not for herself.

In fact, in a toy drive she’s calling Cassidy’s Ultimate Gift, she has collected more than 400 play things so far that she will personally deliver to the Chicago Shriners Hospital for Children on Sept. 30.

“I’ve always liked to give and I love kids,” Evans explained Monday at Yazel-Clark Funeral Home, where she has worked part-time since January. “I thought of it one day while driving down the road. I said, ‘Dad, what if for my birthday I gave away toys to a children’s hospital? Steve, a friend at our campground, suggested the Shriners and got me right to the person I needed to talk to, their donations coordinator, Mary McCauley. I started about a month ago. They get donations, but she said they’ve never been from a teenager.”

The funeral home is supporting her by providing toy storage space, a company van to deliver them and serving as a drop-off point for donations of new toys still in the package, whether it’s books, puzzles, dolls, toy vehicles, stuffed animals, crayons and coloring books, activity books or pens and journals.

“I’m a funeral assistant,” Evans said. “I work in the office and I greet. My grandma and grandpa (Ruby and Richard Evans) both passed away (Nov. 5 and Dec. 26, 2012). I was like, ‘Wow! This is very nice and made me think totally different of the experience.’ Maybe I want to be a funeral director when I get older, so I came and talked to Brad (Yazel). I’ve already looked into colleges, but I have a lot of time. Before, I wanted to help people, so I thought of being a teacher or a counselor.”

While the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made her birthday an infamous day, she turned 5, so has no recollection of the national grief.

“I took Popsicles to school and my teacher said I couldn’t hand them out because it was a sad day,” Cassidy recalled.

She attended Justus Gage and Patrick Hamilton elementary schools.

As a Pat Ham first grader, she was a March 2004 Citizen of the Month.

She was a Chieftain of the Year at Dowagiac Middle School in 2011.

Making lemonade out of a lemon date like 9/11 wasn’t her motivation.

In fact, until Office Manager Luann Leto observed, “You’re actually doing something good on a sad day,” “I never thought of it that way,” Evans said.

“She’s going to be an amazing funeral director with her qualities,” Leto said.

Cassidy, daughter of Richard and Cristy Evans, has one older sister, Charity, 19, 2012 Homecoming queen.

At school, Evans serves on Student Senate and participates in Chieftain Heart spirit club and Rotary Interact.

She studies the Bible in a network developed three years ago among local church youth groups for half an hour after school on Wednesdays.

Evans, who attends Apostolic Lighthouse, went to the Aug. 7-9 NAYC —North American Youth Congress — in Louisville, Ky., attended by 20,000 young people.

“It’s such a refreshing story to hear about our youth doing something positive in today’s world,” said Hal Shue, advance funeral planner and family service adviser. “A delightful change from the narcissism in our society.”