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St. Nicholas football coach inspires players and parents

Photo Courtesy Of St. Nicholas School

Football coach Henry Evans works with students during practice at St. Nicholas School.

Henry Evans does a lot of things dads do these days – he loves his wife Jane and is crazy about his four children, Mikala, Steven, Nicholas and the youngest, Mike. Mike, now in eighth-grade at St. Nicholas School in Los Altos Hills, is on the flag football team and Henry is the coach. What makes this so extraordinary is that Henry is a quadriplegic.

Seven years ago, Henry endured a severe stroke that left his mind intact (Henry earned a master’s in business administration from Stanford and an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame), though the stroke rendered him not only quadriplegic, but also mute.

p>Henry, a football nut for many years, “speaks” to the team in two ways. After years of therapy, he is able to sit up in a wheelchair and can blink his eyes. He uses a letter board to convey his thoughts, one letter at a time. He also uses a high-tech electronic voice box, called a Dynavox. Via a special dot on his glasses, Henry can translate a letter or phrase onto a laptop, which then electronically “vocalizes” his message.

Henry is in constant contact with the other coach of the team, Dan Clevenger, via e-mail, on which the two strategize. They have built a great friendship over football. At half time, Jane wheels Henry over to “talk” to the troops.

Over the past seven years post-stroke, Henry, with the love and support of his family, has accomplished some extraordinary things off the football field as well. He published a cookbook, “The Pureed Gourmet,” to assist other disabled persons regaining the ability to eat. He realized his dream to bottle wine, Hevans Wines, growing vines on his property with the help of nearby Fogarty Winery. He worked with gifted robotics students at Palo Alto High School to develop the “LaserFinger,” a laser mounted on a baseball cap that allows people, with a small movement of the head, to turn on lights or even call 911. For his work on the LaserFinger, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology presented Henry the Most Inspirational Award from the National Inventeams Group, a distinction MIT created in his honor.

For Coach Henry, however, his accomplishments take second seat to watching Mike take the quarterback position and complete a pass for a touchdown. Henry has actively supported his family and the St. Nicholas community.

“To see Henry out on the field coaching, not as a spectator from the sidelines, speaks volumes about the type of person he is,” said Matt Komar, principal of St. Nicholas School. “He gives so much of his talents and spirit to our community. To see him interact with the players is truly inspirational.”

Christa Patrick is director of advancement at St. Nicholas School.

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