When they see the bumper stickers his friends have placed — anywhere from Rocky Mountain ski resorts to picturesque coastal towns to an historic part of Barcelona — people might wonder who Brent is and why they should live like him.
“He was just a very vibrant, audacious kind of person,” Ainsling Carroll, who is recently back from a trip to Spain, said as she described her late boyfriend, Brent P. Evans. “He made the best of every day, sick or not.”
“Everybody loved him,” said Brent’s dad, Ken Evans of Plains Township. “There were 3,700 people at his wake … oh, his mother says that’s an exaggeration … but it was unbelievable.”
“He lived life to the fullest,” said Brent’s mom, Karen Evans, “and he wanted to make sure nobody else would have to go through what he went through.”
Individuals who are similarly committed to helping people with blood cancer — the disease that claimed Brent Evans last year, at age 33 — will gather at the F.M. Kirby Center on Friday for the inaugural Live Like Brent Gala.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit research and be used for stipends of up to $2,500 that the Live Like Brent Foundation grants to young cancer patients.
“Anyone diagnosed between 12 and 40 can apply for a stipend to help them with medical bills, personal bills, rent, insurance, anything they need,” Karen Evans said.
Brent was diagnosed in 2010 with stage IV hepatosplenic t-cell, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer. While he was living and working in Philadelphia, and battling that disease, he founded Carve 4 Cancer, an annual event that combines snowboarding and skiing with an art and music festival.
“He loved extreme sports,” his mother said.
“When we would have a doctor’s visit, one of his first questions would be, ‘When can I get on the mountain?’” Carroll recalled. “Some of the new doctors would say, ‘I heard you were going to ask that.’”
Every chance they had, Carroll said, she and Brent would hit the slopes.
“Shredding,” or bringing a certain fierce enjoyment to a rugged sport, was something he really enjoyed.
“He always liked the outdoors,” Karen Evans said. “He liked to hike. He’d go to the Smokey Mountains just to take in the scenery. He’d take his jeep and camp.”
There were times Brent, Carroll and the Evans family were optimistic about his odds, especially when he was in remission for a couple of years, and when a stem cell transplant from his brother, Ryan, followed by a second stem cell transplant from a stranger, seemed to help.
“We always knew there was a chance it could come back,” said Carroll, who met Brent in 2014 after he’d already won his first battle with cancer. “He always said he had a feeling it would come back because it was such a rare type. It was always in the back of our minds.”
“But his attitude was always, I’m going to deal with the cards I’ve been dealt. Cancer aside, in any given situation, he always had the best outlook,” Carroll said. “I think I’m a better person, having known him.”
After Brent passed away, Carroll decided to go ahead and take a trip the two of them had planned, to visit a friend in Colorado.
“I said, ‘I’m just gonna do it.’ I started living like Brent.”
“If I could create half the impact Brent had on half the number of people he knew,” Carroll said, “I’d give myself a pat on the back.”
This Carve 4 Cancer event that Brent established is now a federally recognized non-profit, which raised $125,000 this year alone.
Friday’s event, which includes live music, a silent auction and a three-course dinner, recently sold out. But the cause of cancer research and financial aid for cancer patients continues. Donations may be made through carve4cancer.com/livelikebrent.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.