Channeling their Grief
Wahpeton family establishes non-profit to help others
By Matthew Liedke • Wahpeton Daily News
Stuart Schumacher of Wahpeton, whose 4-year-old son Evan Vincent Schumacher died a month ago on Feb. 8, knows the pain people go through when they lose a child and the stress it puts on parents.
“I think people don’t know how hard it is. It’s soul crushing. You can’t go a minute without thinking about your kid and it’s hard to move on,” Schumacher said. “It’s hard to be a parent in that hospital, when you are just scared to death and there’s nothing you can do and you want to help your kid.”
It is especially overwhelming when your child is in such critical condition as Evan was.
“You’re tired and just exhausted,” Schumacher continued. “I don’t think people realize just how hard it is on the parents.”
After returning home from Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo, Schumacher and his wife, Melissa, were both broken down and their backs hurt from the furniture at the hospital.
“While we were there, we were sleeping on couches that weren’t meant to be slept on, there’s no real support to them,” Schumacher said. “It’s hard to sleep as it is, you’re already not wanting to sleep and then when you’re finally able to get some sleep, you can’t get comfortable.”
In response, Schumacher thought if hospitals had more comfortable couches and other furniture, it could be a big benefit to the parents.
“Originally, I talked to Melissa about it and she said that it was a great idea,” Schumacher said. “At first, it was just to maybe help Sanford, but as we got to talking with our family, we realized there are complaints from everybody about uncomfortable furniture to sleep on.”
The idea became a non-profit charity organization called Evan’s Support, named in the honor of his son’s legacy. After their decision to start the charity, Schumacher said the family went to a lawyer with the intention to create a national program.
“If you haven’t been in the position, you wouldn’t understand how beneficial it is,” Schumacher said. “You have this horrible news coming to you, you have questions to ask all the time and you’re so tired that it’s hard to function. That’s how the plan really came about.”
The goal of Evan’s Support is not just to help provide better furniture for hospitals, though, the organization has also made helping families with obituaries part of its mission.
“Every kid should be able to have their story told, the parents deserve it and the kids deserve it,” the grief-stricken father said. “What we want to do is find a national network of writers and people who can edit.
“The obituary part is going to be a lot of volunteers,” Schumacher continued. “It’s one of those things that once it gets going, it may self sustain itself.”
Additionally, the organization will also set out to help with costs that come up when submitting an obituary to a news outlet.
“Some papers might give out a discount for a young child, but chances are there isn’t a big pocket of money, so if they tell you to run the obituary and it’s going to be $600, it’s not a fair fight,” Schumacher said. “These parents want everyone in the world to know who their kid was and it’s just a matter of cost. We want to try to find a way. Hopefully we can try to negotiate deals with papers so people can know ahead of time what they will spend.”
To help in raising money for the charity, a website has been set up with an online store where people can purchase T-shirts based around things that Evan loved. The website states that some can be serious and others are funny, but they were made to show Evan’s compassion.
The website for the charity is www.evanssupport.com and the organization has also set up a page on social media at facebook.com/evanssupport.
“We want to try to go national with it right away,” Schumacher said. “It’s going to be a charity that any parent can use. When we do roll it all out, we want to do something for a hospital in each of the 50 states and get the word out.”