ARLINGTON — Looking back, Mike Evans sees the signs.
He didn’t know to look for them at the time.
It took decades for him and his younger brother, Todd Evans, to find out that Todd had a mental illness. It eventually claimed his life.
A scholarship fund Mike Evans started to honor his brother supports teens affected by mental illness. He stresses the importance of recognizing it at a young age and beating the stigma that can come with counseling or medication.
Todd Evans was a baseball player in Arlington High School’s class of 1979, a tall teen with a mustache and a look of determination when he wore his Eagles uniform.
When he obsessed about other players supposedly sabotaging him, Mike Evans shrugged it off as his brother, the youngest of three, being a competitive teen.
Years later, when he lived at home without helping their mom pay bills, his older brothers grew frustrated. Todd Evans couldn’t hold down a job or manage money. The once tight-knit trio butted heads.
They wondered whether the youngest had recovered from the loss of their father right after high school.
It wasn’t until he was in his 40s that doctors diagnosed Todd Evans with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and later with post-traumatic stress disorder. That was more than a decade after he lost his mom and all but disappeared from his brothers’ lives with his share of the inheritance. When he showed up on Mike Evans’ doorstep near Arlington, he was broke and hauling a poorly maintained fifth-wheel that he called home.
Mike Evans told his brother he could stay, but needed a job. He couldn’t keep one. He wouldn’t listen and was sure people were working against him.
“He went to work, but his normal way of thinking was just off,” Evans said. “I could tell by talking to him he was out in left field. Voices were talking to him.”
They got him into a care center where he regularly met with a counselor. He got medicine, and he got better, Evans said.
Then Todd moved into affordable housing with no counselor on site. He stopped taking medicine. He was sure an old friend was breaking into his apartment and stealing things. He started leaving tape across the door and frame.
“He didn’t trust anyone,” his brother said.
Mike Evans was at an Arlington High School football game three years ago when his cellphone rang. His brother had passed out in Marysville’s Jennings Park.
Todd Evans recovered enough to communicate with thumbs up or down. Mike Evans visited the hospital to watch baseball games with him.
In October 2014, Todd Evans had a heart attack. He died shortly after. He was 53.
Doctors told Mike Evans that his brother had an ingrown hair on his leg that appeared to have been infected for months before he collapsed in the park. His paranoia kept him from seeking help, Mike Evans said. He let himself get sicker until he went into septic shock.
“He was a good brother,” he said. “We got along until we started bickering about him not helping out mom, but I didn’t know he was going through all this.”
The Todd Evans Scholarship Fund started with $1,000 and $500 awards to Arlington High School students, then added Lakewood and Marysville Pilchuck. Mike Evans hopes to add more schools.
Students seeking the scholarship are evaluated on an essay about how they’ve been affected by mental illness.
The next fundraiser is the Todd Evans Scholarship Night at the July 22 Everett Aquasox game. Tickets are $15, and about half goes to the scholarship fund.
Tickets are available at Action Sports in Arlington, Play it Again Sports in Marysville and Cascadia Chiropractic in Lakewood. They also can be bought from the Aquasox, 425-258-3673, but purchasers must specify that they’re part of the Todd Evans Scholarship Night.
A golf tournament also is planned for Aug. 19 in Marysville. Registration is $100 before Aug. 5. For more information, call Mike Evans at 425-319-7513 or go to toddevans scholarship.com.
Two years ago, $5,000 came in. Last year, it was more than $9,000. He hopes to top that.
More than anything, though, he wants people to recognize signs of mental illness. He wonders what his brother’s life would have been like if he’d been diagnosed sooner, if medicine and counseling became part of his routine at a young age rather than after decades of living without help.
He hopes Todd’s story can save someone else.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.