11/21/2017 1:24:00 PM Edgemont Pair Enjoys 'Thursday Hero' Status With Cavaliers
Parker Willis, left, and Evan Groves, center, pose with Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert during a recent “Thursday Hero” visit in Charlottesville. Edgemont Primary School students held a Superhero Day assembly for Evan recently. He and Parker were then guests of the U.Va. football team as part of their “Thursday Hero” celebration. (Photo Courtesy Karen Willis)
Evan Groves, a third grade student at Edgemont Primary School, is considered a hero to many residents of the Alleghany Highlands.
Evan is fighting an ongoing battle with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a rare skin disease.
This was proven to be true when the students, faculty and staff at EPS put on a surprise Superhero Day assembly for Evan on Wednesday, Nov. 8. That day everyone dressed up in their favorite superhero attire in honor of Evan.
Another individual was right by his side that day, Evan’s best friend Parker Willis.
The next day, Evan’s hero status extended to Charlottesville, where a new group of people would learn about him and his fight.
University of Virginia football coach Bronco Men-denhall and his Cavaliers held an event called “Thursday Heroes,” where their guests can visit the football facility and talk with the team and coaching staff.
Evan was named the “Thursday Hero” for this particular visit. He was accompanied by his family and the family of his best friend, Parker, on the junket to Charlottesville.
“It was really fun,” the inseparable pair said of their experience.
Evan and Parker received gifts from football players Doni Dowling, Brandon Pertile and Kurt Benkert.
Evan’s favorite gift was a monster truck and tickets to a future Monster Jam event in Richmond, while Parker’s favorite gift was a football. They were also outfitted with U.Va. hats and clothing.
When asked how the Thursday Hero trip was set up, Groves’ mother, Chris-tina McLaughlin, stated that it was coordinated by EPS Principal Cynthia Morgan as part of a group effort.
Other individuals in the group who set up the trip included Natalie Fitzgerald, who was in communication with Morgan and Hannah Cvizic, who suggested the trip to Charlottesville.
Evan and Parker participated in several activities during their U.Va. visit. They played football on the practice field, sat at Coach Mendenhall’s desk, toured the weight room, locker room and enjoyed their talk with Coach Mendenhall.
Mendenhall gave the pair a quote during their talk, “Be greater than, but not equal to, the person you were yesterday.”
A video of their experience in Charlottesville, which was posted Nov. 9, is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/virginiafootball.
McLaughlin took the time to express her thanks to the community and everyone who has been a source of support for her, Evan and friends and family throughout the time the youngster has battled EB.
She also said that she is hopeful for Evan’s future as he has gone above and beyond in exceeding expectations for an individual who is effected by EB.
She said that her son takes everything in stride and goes by the mantra of never saying “can’t” and living by the motto, “We don’t give up.”
Evan also wants others who may not know what he is going through to treat him like any other individual.
While he displays independence and the ability to do things for himself, he will always have a support system to assist him in his day-to-day life.
And, there will also be another person with him along the way, his best friend, Parker.