Hutchinson High School head coach and softball teacher Clayton Evans had been in Hutchinson for 100 days.
Evans returned from Colorado where he was in rehab on Friday following a serious spinal cord injury that hospitalized him for nearly three months. Since he began his recovery, there have been numerous fundraisers held to help the Evans family pay the medical bills, and that support was always shown when Clayton returned home.
Almost 1,000 students gathered around the circular driveway of Hutchinson High School to welcome him back. Evans said he cried more than he had in his life since Lawrence began the recovery process and transferred to Colorado for rehab. During those 100 days, he was able to see his children three times.
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That’s not all that happened on Friday.
When Evans and his wife, Melissa, arrived in Hutchinson this Friday from Colorado, they decided to surprise their 8-year-old daughter Isabella in second grade at Graber Elementary.
Teachers and students also played along to help with the surprise. Isabella was placed in front of the class during an assignment. Just before 3 p.m. Evans arrived, and that’s when Isabella looked up and saw her father, and jumped up to kiss him.
âMy wife came up with the idea of ââsurprising my daughter at school,â Evans said. âI didn’t think I was going to cry. Roll over there and see the kids in her class excited but say nothing as I walked forward, turned the corner and saw my daughter’s eyes light up. and she jumped from her chair excitedly.
“That’s when I kinda lost her. It was so good having her in my arms, knowing that I could come home and tuck her in and say goodnight to her.”
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Isabella was also very happy to see her father and proud of his recovery journey.
âI’m really proud of him,â said Isabella, âbecause going from one day to so many other days has been a really big change for him. He did a really good job doing that.â
Victoria Pettay, a junior and cheerleader at Hutchinson High School, was one of many college students in tears as she saw Evans make her first appearance at Hutchinson.
âDefinitely tears of joy,â Pettay said. âI was super excited because all last year I had lunch with him. I was at DECA and I was at Sweet Treat (the school cafe). So I was super excited. “
Sammi Carpenter, a junior at Hutch High, was also one of the first students to catch a glimpse of Evans walking down the aisle of high school. She said she has known Coach Evans forever.
âI’m so glad he’s home,â Carpenter said. “He’s just one of my favorite teachers. So I’m really glad he’s back.”
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Indeed, Evans felt good to be back where he had grown up. He spoke and compared Colorado to Hutchinson, but said he missed those things, even though Colorado was magnificent. He told a nurse about his ideal date to be back in Hutchinson, which the nurse thought was early on but soon saw the importance and support he had from the community.
âAfter about a week, I wanted to go home to Kansas,â Evans said. âI wanted the humidity, I wanted the damn mosquitoes, I wanted my family and even my extended family, which are my teachers, colleagues, coaches, players and students. I wanted to be back in person with them. I stayed. in touch with a lot of people throughout the process and throughout the 100 days that have passed, and that made me miss it even more. “
Evans expressed his thanks for the continued support from the community. He said he would give everyone a hug or a handshake if he could.
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âI keep telling myself that I don’t know why I deserve this, but it’s amazing,â said Evans. âI hope I can thank everyone in person at some point.
âJust when I think the community can’t support me with something, I find something out the next day, then thank him again. It’s been nonstop love, and it’s hard to tell what point I’m grateful for that. “