METAIRIE, La. - In the backyard of their stately Old Metairie Mansion, Saints Fullback Heath Evans effortlessly tosses daughter Eva into a cloudless sky. She drops into his waiting arms confident that Daddy will always be there to catch her and to protect her, that's what Daddies do, don't they?
On the sunbaked fields of his native South Florida, Evans oversees an annual Seven on Seven High School Flag Football Championship that benefits his foundation. His wife Beth Ann, radiant, on the sidelines
'He's really taken this foundation and just run with it, he's really been the one to step out,' said Evan's wife, Beth Ann.
On a gorgeous April evening on Airline Drive, a Saints Softball game adds upwards of $100,000 to the foundation's coffers. Beth Ann supports Heath largely in silence. He provides her voice and that of millions of women like her. It's April, a month of reawakening, of rebirth, of new life, but for Heath and Beth Ann Evans it has a much different significance, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
'We had planned both of us sitting here today,' Evans said. 'She had a conversation with one of our young ladies that's in our counseling care center now and it really, I don't want to say it sent her on a tailspin, but her heart breaks for these girls.'
Beth Ann chooses the silence and solitude of her private thoughts to the public resurrection of painful memories a counseling session with another victim of child abuse has earlier that day had provoked for a victim of child abuse as she was. Beth Ann was abused sexually almost daily by a classmate as a third grader. That was a long time ago, but it will never be long enough.
'We were driving home to meet my family the first time, and we weren't even engaged yet, she just mentioned it off the cuff, and I remember expressing my remorse to her, 'Oh I'm so sorry' and I just left it at that, there was no further conversation with her,' Evans said. 'Nothing really else came out of her mouth.
'Do I dive into this? Do I leave it alone?' Evans wondered. 'Where do I go with this? Nothing really came up about it, so I just thought it was one of those things, obviously she's fine, she's got the world by the tail. We get married, then boom, I see all these different signs. We all know marriage is tough, this was far beyond tough.'
The long term of effects of childhood sexual abuse for women, and an estimated 15-25 percent of women have them; include poor self esteem, difficulty trusting others, feelings of isolation, depression, self destructive tendencies, sexual maladjustment, and substance abuse.
Those who marry can lose their husbands as well to divorce, husbands who can't live with their partner's pain, who feel powerless to soothe it, and leave in frustration.
'I saw these different things inside of our relationship change,' Evans said. 'I knew it was something abnormal. We'd been through the marriage counseling and we'd been through all the different things, we had a good mindset of what to expect with marriage, and these were things, I hadn't been prepped on.'
But that's when Evans fullback mentality took over - study your opponent, meet it head on. Neutralize it, if not defeat it, for you, for your teammate, for your soulmate.
'Me and my personality is kinda to just ask questions , let's try to get to the bottom of this, and I think finally she realized I wasn't going to leave her and wasn't going to quit her,' Evans said. 'Walls started to crumble down and she was more willing and able to be open with me.'
The result was their foundation that provides care and counseling for sexually abused children at a cost of $500 per child, per month. Not an easy subject to discuss, impossible to ignore, if you've been the subject of it, though without help such as theirs many try, feeling they have no choice.
'Could I shut my mouth, knowing, Beth Ann's gotten her help, we're good, the Evans family is all hunky-dory , now we'll just keep our mouths shut and move on, I knew anything buried alive emotionally will never die,' Evans said.
Childhood sexual abuse has been described as soul murder, maybe such a soul cannot be resurrected. But Evans says he's willing to go broke trying.
'Beth Ann and I, we have the formula for healing for these children and no one's gonna tell us how we need to do this, the plan has been set, we're here to help people. I firmly believe my heavenly father will provide the financial resources like he always does,' Evans said.
To learn as a child that adults whom you trust won't always be there to protect you, that some will there to harm you is a painful lesson, as painful as any in life. It leaves life scars often concealed painfully revealed and never truly healed.
But Heath and Beth Ann Evans know you have to try, for yourself, for each other, for others like you and for those you can prevent from ever having to be.
It's what mommies and daddies do.
You can become a part of Heath Evans' team. Just log on to HeathEvans.org to learn more.