- Associated Press - Saturday, July 18, 2015

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Nine-year-old Shamus Evans hasn’t let cerebral palsy prevent him from opening opportunities to other kids with special needs.

“I want to help others so that they can feel the wind in their hair,” he said softly.

Shamus is being pushed across the country in a mobility chair by his father, Shaun. His family presented a similar chair on Thursday to the Post Falls family of 4-year-old Mac Rigg, who is battling hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of fluid within the brain.

“They are a great example to all of us in the special needs community,” Mac’s mom, Taylor, said of the Evans family. “They are genuine and kind. The fact that they are taking their entire summer blessing families is incredible. They’re a great example of perseverance. We’ll definitely put the chair to good use.”

The Evans family, from Galway, New York, is making the 3,205-mile journey called Power to Push from Seattle to New York City in support of the nonprofit Ainsley’s Angels, which aims to ensure that everyone can experience endurance events. Shamus wants the trip, which was his idea, to reward kids confined to wheelchairs with a chair that allows them to experience what it’s like to “go fast.”

Along the way, the family is donating at least one mobility chair to a youth in need in every state it crosses.

“The goal of this mission is to promote inclusion so that kids with disabilities will not be sidelined,” said 37-year-old Shaun, while taking a break along the Centennial Trail in Post Falls in an RV being driven by his wife, Nichole.

“Feeling wind in his hair is a neat sensation for Shamus and it’s something that most people take for granted. He needs my legs to feel it. We supply the legs and he supplies the heart and spirit. Together we do it.”

The Evanses became aware of Mac’s condition through the triathlon community. Mac’s father, Jeff, a teacher at Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy and North Idaho College, competes in Ironman.

The value of Mac’s mobility chair is $900, but other chairs can cost as much as $9,000 depending on the need. In addition to Ainsley’s Angels, the chair donation was made possible by Adaptive Star, a Selah, Washington, company that specializes in outdoor mobility products for those with special needs. The company also donated the chair that Shaun and Shamus are using on the trip.

Shaun said his family plans to present at least 21 chairs to families in need during the 15-state journey. The Evanses left Seattle on July 4. They will finish in New York City on September 1, going an average of 53 miles a day.

“We have to be in New York by September 1 because the New York Mets have invited Shamus and Simon (Shamus’ 7-year-old brother who is also on the trip) for a meet and greet with the team,” Shaun said.

Two years ago, Shamus began dreaming of dipping his toes in the Pacific Ocean, making a cross-country journey in a mobility stroller and finishing with his toes in the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, he also wanted to make a difference in the lives of other kids with special needs.

Having that dream become reality has made for an emotional first week on the road.

“It’s nice to see it materialize,” he said.

Shaun, an ultramarathon runner, switches between pushing his sons and running on his own. With the recent heat, he said he has to be careful his sons don’t become dehydrated. Nichole handles logistics, drives the black and hot pink RV with the nonprofit’s logo and takes care of the boys when they aren’t out with their dad.

“What keeps pulling me is that I have another chair to deliver,” Shaun said. “I have a chair to deliver in Gillette (Wyoming) on the 25th that I don’t want to be late for.”

The family has raised $76,000 for the mission.

Shaun said the goal was to raise $70,000, but now he’s hoping for $100,000 so more mobility chairs can be delivered.

Mac’s mother Taylor said the Evanses’ journey is a reminder that, even though there are hurdles in life, determination can still bring fulfillment.

“Life doesn’t need to stop just because you have a child with special needs,” she said.

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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