Has a friend changed your life?

 

Yesterday, I missed a call from Laurie, a friend who lived across the hall from me during my freshman year of college. In addition to an abundance of chocolate chip cookies, she and I shared a wonderful friendship that flourished during our four years in college and endures today.

Her call made me think about the power of friendship and how friendships change our lives. Often we take them for granted, and sometimes they fall apart. Few of us, however, would say that friendships are something we could live without. Whenever I hear JMU alumni stories, inevitably there’s a comment something like this: “We met in Hillside.” “My roommate became my best friend.” “We were partners in chemistry lab.” “I bumped into him crossing the Quad.”

Friendships formed on college campuses are often those we keep for life.  That’s certainly true of JMU.  In fact, I’d say at Madison, it’s the rule.

Recently I came across a story by my friend and colleague, Colleen Dixon, which illustrates the powerful impact one young man had on his friends.  It’s the story of the late Evin Shoap (’06, ‘07M), who before his untimely death touched a whole lot of people.  And as you’ll read, that impact continues.

So read and savor — and then, go call a Madison friend you haven’t talked to for a while.  Tonight, I’m calling Laurie.  It’s been waaaaaaay too long….

Team Evin

By Colleen Dixon

“You didn’t just meet Evin. Instead, he touched your life,” Becky Schatz says about her friend Evin Shoap (’06, ‘07M), who passed away in 2007 after a lifelong battle with cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart condition. “It didn’t take a long time for people to remember him. For me, it took an hour at most and sometimes I think it may have even happened the moment we met.” The two met on a flight to Israel and talked for most of the 13-hour flight. Schatz explains, “Within the first few minutes, I knew Evin was going to be something big in my life.”

Shoap received a heart transplant when he was 15 years old. Incredibly, within three months of receiving a new heart Shoap took a lifeguarding course and rejoined the local swim team. Shoap was very self-confident and never showed weakness. “He never complained or demanded sympathy for his situation. He was the kind of person who was always concerned about everyone else; he didn’t ever want people worrying about him,” says Barnes.

Over the years Shoap had periodic transplant rejection episodes that were successfully controlled by medication adjustments or additional treatments to kill white blood cells. In early November of his senior year of high school, Shoap had a major rejection episode. He was placed in a medically-induced coma in the critical cardiac unit for several months while doctors worked to save his life. Carla Shoap, Evin’s mother, says, “His friends always came by to see and talk to him and manipulate his limbs during the coma and after to talk to him.”

Shoap came out of the induced coma in early January and was home by June. He was able to receive his high-school diploma with his classmates. By the time he began college at George Mason that fall he needed only a cane. Once doctors gave permission for him leave the area, Shoap transferred to JMU.

Katie DiDonato (’06) met Shoap in 2002. “My freshman year at JMU I lived in Hillside with Kevin Cummings (’05). Kevin, Evin and  Kevan MacIver (’06) went to the same high school. Evin came to visit Kevin often. One of the first times Evin visited we were throwing a Frisbee, and Evin asked if we could take a break because he was getting worn out. I knew he had had a heart transplant, but never truly understood the impact on his body until that moment.”  Shoap was active during his time at JMU. The English major worked on The Breeze, was a member of Hillel and was a Freshman Orientation Guide.

An obvious advocate for organ donation, Shoap sought to establish a Students for Organ and Tissue Donation club at JMU. DiDonato spent many afternoons on the commons with Shoap as he talked with students about being organ donors and handed out bracelets, pins, etc. to raise awareness. He also spoke on campus and shared his experience whenever possible.

In January 2007 Shoap took a leave from JMU’s graduate program. The Master of Arts in Teaching degree candidate didn’t feel strong enough to student teach with all the standing required. Carla says, “He moved home and spent his time visiting friends, writing, taking pictures and cooking.” Evin died on March 24. “His heart just gave out,” Carla says.

Carla became more active with Washington Regional Transplant Community after Evin’s death and is a part of their Family Council. WTRC supports organ and tissue donation in the metropolitan area. “When they decided to hold their first 5K,” Carla says, “I thought it was a great way for Evin’s friends to honor his memory and so I created Team Evin. I contacted friends from JMU and some of his friends from home and they spread the word.”

In June 2010 a group of Evin’s friends, including six Dukes, ran in the first WRTC 5K race as part of Team Evin. Team Evin was one of the largest teams at the event.

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For more information on the Washington Regional Transplant Community, check out their website: http://www.beadonor.org/index.php

If a Madison friend has changed your life, we’d love to hear from you. Add a comment here, or shoot me an email at Bethechange@jmu.edu.

And if you’re looking for JMU friends you haven’t connected with for a while, check out the Alumni Association website  for upcoming reunions here: http://www.jmu.edu/alumni/

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About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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