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Young, double cancer patient dies
Evan Nelms
Evan Nelms, 5, of Richmond Hill sits in one of the hospital beds where he spend time during his year-long fight with leukemia. - photo by Photo provided.

After nearly a year of battling leukemia, 5-year-old Evan Nelms of Richmond Hill died Saturday.
Evan was diagnosed on April 22, 2012, with leukemia, then relapsed with acute myeloid leukemia — a rare and aggressive form of leukemia. The community rallied together to support Evan and his family through bone marrow donor drives and fundraisers, and the efforts haven’t stopped.
A candlelight vigil is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill.
 “Evan’s story and Evan alone has inspired me to hold this candlelight vigil,” said Melissa Pacut, who does not personally know Evan or his family. “I hope to meet (Evan’s mother) Evette one day to tell her that her and her family, including Evan, are just amazing people with an amazing gift. Evette really has shown true strength, true courage and true hope, and a lot of people can see that — even people that do not know her.”
Those attending the vigil are encouraged to wear orange, the color of leukemia awareness, to show support for the family and to honor the strength and hope that Evan showed throughout his battle. People are asked to bring their own candles, Pacut said.
Pacut said a memory box will be available to share positive thoughts, prayers or memories people have of Evan.
“The memory box is for any person who had a memory with Evan — such as a child who had played with him or, for an adult, if they read him a story,” Pacut said. “We will gather all the memories and put them in a special box for Evette and her family to have extra memories to hold on to.”
The ceremony will be near the amphitheater. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to the pavilion.
Pacut said she hopes that the community will come together once more for Evan.
“From the beginning of planning the candlelight vigil for Evan, so many people in the community offered their help and support,” she said. “The constant pouring of support and help is astonishing. I’ve met some wonderful friends of Evette’s through this process and I also gained some.
“Vicki Purcell and LeAnn Collins Flemmings are close friends with Evette and they are wonderful people with big hearts. With the help of them, along with some other people, we will able to light the park up for Evan.”
Evan was a kindergarten student in Patricia Shatto’s class at Richmond Hill Primary School. School principal Mary Ann Tiedemann said Monday the staff at RHPS was saddened and shocked to learn the news.  
“It’s been really a shock for us because the whole time Evan was here with us, he was one of us,” Tiedemann said. “He was a very energetic little kindergartener. He bounced out of the car every morning and really enjoyed school.
“And when he wasn’t doing so well we didn’t really see him much. So we remember Evan as the vivacious little kindergartener he was, and I think that’s really a good thing for our children.”
Tiedemann said the staff at the school was also excited to learn that Evan had enjoyed his recent trip to Walt Disney World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“We were concerned how he did with that with his health, but we heard that he really enjoyed it,” she said. “And it’s a great thing that he enjoyed that — to know the last week or two he had a lot of fun.”
Tiedemann added counselors were available at the school for students or staff who needed them.
“We just miss him, and we wish his family the best during this difficult time,” she said.  
A memorial service is planned for April 27 in J.F. Gregory Park, though a time has not yet been set. Other services are planned in New Jersey and Maryland.

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