The Evan Project

When he got a new baby sister from China, Evan Pressley had an idea. And when he acted on it, the effects were felt halfway around the world.

The Evan Project

“If every kid did something like this, just think how it could change the world.” This comment was overheard at a neighborhood swimming pool last summer in Craig, Colorado, a small community of 8,000 people. It was 13-year-old Evan Pressley they were talking about—and still are.

Evan, a deacon in the Craig First Ward, Meeker Colorado Stake, went door-to-door in his hometown last June asking for money, not for himself, but for orphans in China. He managed to raise $2,418. “And 45 cents,” he adds. He turned what he raised over to a Chinese nonprofit, tax-exempt service organization headquartered near Denver, Colorado.

Evan’s inspiration to help orphans living thousands of miles away in China began with his visit to that country in December of 1996. Evan accompanied his parents, Dave and Mary Pressley, when they adopted his little sister, Marianne Kai Yue. “After I got home, I just wanted to help some babies who are not as fortunate as my little sister, who has found a family.” Marianne and Evan have two older brothers, Ben, 19, and Dan, 18.

As a result of traditional prejudice against females, hundreds of girls are abandoned daily in China. Evan’s little sister was one of them. She had been left on a doorstep in a small village when she was only one day old. On a note attached to her clothing was the handwritten date and time of her birth: “April 15, 1996, 9:23 A.M.” Eight months later, when the Pressleys took her home, she weighed only 10 pounds. Poor nutrition is a fact of life for Chinese orphans. Their caregivers are very loving but lack the funds to feed the babies well.

In the spring of 1997, Evan sent a handwritten letter to Lily Nie and Joshua Zhong, directors of the agency the Pressleys went through to adopt Marianne, informing them of his project. His goal was to raise $2,175. He exceeded that goal and came up with a total of $2,418 (and 45 cents). He made a list of specific things he wanted done with that money: repair a child’s cleft palate and lip; buy a heavy-duty washer and dryer; provide enough formula for eight babies for one month; buy a crib and some toys; set up a small children’s health clinic. All this for $2,418! “Money goes a long way in China,” Evan explains.

In August of 1997, Evan hand-delivered the money to Lily and Joshua. And they more than honored his request. Joshua, who affectionately calls this “the Evan Project,” traveled to China last fall with the money and carefully carried out Evan’s itemized list. He even chose the child that would have the cleft palate surgery. The funds went to the Fusan Children’s Welfare House in Liaoning Province in northern China. “There are more than 150 children there,” Evan says, “and 95 percent of them are handicapped. They’ll never be adopted.”

Was Evan’s project easy? “A lot of people turned me down. I almost quit when I knocked on one man’s door and he told me that he wouldn’t contribute. He even admitted that he was hard-hearted!” Very discouraged at this point, he says, “I fasted for 24 hours and prayed. I told Heavenly Father that I really needed to do this, for the babies in China, and would he please help me find people who wanted to give.” Evan’s prayers were answered.

Several articles were published in the newspapers about the Evan Project. Later, Joshua Zhong sent a letter to one newspaper thanking the people of Craig, Colorado, for their support. He also sent a letter to Evan expressing his feelings. “I want to thank and salute you for an incredibly moving and successful fund-raising effort. I am deeply touched by your love for the Chinese children. … You are an amazing kid with a very BIG heart!”

What does this “amazing kid” have in mind for the future? You guessed it. He’s not through helping orphans in China. He’s given it a lot of thought, and he’s getting close to earning his Eagle Scout Award. For his project he’s going to do something like gathering baby formula—lots of it—to send to Chinese orphanages. After all, when you have a BIG heart, it can strrreettch a whole lot to make room for one more Chinese baby … or 50 … or 150.

[photos] Photography by Jim Files, Craig Daily Press, and courtesy of the Pressley family.

[photos] Evan became a familiar sight around his neighborhood as he collected donations for the Chinese orphans, money he turned over to Joshua Zhong (bottom right), whose nonprofit organization helps the children.

[photo] One of the orphans blessed by Evan’s project.