When Stacy Casey was pregnant with her second child in early 2002, the Arbutus resident could not have been happier. She spent the months leading up to her delivery blissfully planning for the arrival of her new son.
Evan Casey was born Nov. 26, 2002. He died June 19, 2011. Those 8 1/2 years would be the hardest in Stacy Casey's life as she learned about feeding tubes, wheelchairs and the limits of medical science.
Evan suffered from many medical issues in his short life, his mother said, but he had a huge impact on the world, in life and in death.
After he died, Stacy Casey and Evan's dad, Shawn Casey, donated Evan's organs through Living Legacy Foundation.
On Sunday, Stacy Casey will lead a team of almost 150 people in Living Legacy's fifth annual Donate Life Family Fun Run to raise awareness about the benefits of becoming an organ donor.
Their team, the superhero-themed "Evangers," has grown from about 50 people in 2012 to 150 people —including her ex-husband's family, their son, Alex, his friends and dozens of family friends.
Casey said her 15-year-old niece, Aubrey Sims, came up with the idea to name the team after Evan and superheroes.
"We made up this thing [when Evan was sick] and I would call him a different superhero every day," Casey said. "He was Green Lantern when he died, and he was Superman when he went to heaven.
"For the funeral, I had everyone wear their superhero shirts instead of all dressed in black and somber," she said.
The Living Legacy Foundation, which is based in Beltway Business Park off Washington Boulevard, facilitates the collection and donation of organs and tissue and works to educate families about the benefits of becoming a donor.
In Evan's final weeks, Casey was connected with foundation through Gilcrest Children's Hospice. Once she learned more about organ donation, Casey said it was an obvious choice.
"There's not really someone that educates you about organ donations [besides Living Legacy]," the 37-year-old Arbutus resident said. "People don't realize that when your loved one is gone, they're gone.
"When I was acting not as Stacy, Evan's mom, but as Stacy, a mom, how would I feel if I knew I could save someone else's life?" she said.
"Somebody else can have the total opposite of what we have," she said. "We can help save with whatever organs they can use."
Casey said the family received letters that Living Legacy was able to donate Evan's eyes and one of his heart valves to people in need.
In January 2012, just months after Evan's death, Casey began a weight-loss journey during which she lost 76 pounds in a year. She decided that she needed to lose the weight to be a better mom to her other son, 17-year-old Alex Aiosa, and so they could participate in the fun run in October 2012.
"I'm not just running for Evan," Stacy Casey said. "I'm running for whomever received his organs. I'm running for the next family that's educated enough to make the choice to donate their organs."
Casey's best friend, Kelly Birch, is participating in the run with Casey for the second year. She said she is proud of Casey for turning the negative of losing her son into the positive of raising awareness about organ donation.
"When she saw that there was a 5K for Living Legacy, she said, 'This is for me, this is mine I'm going to do this for my baby'," Birch said
"She did it for Alex, she did it for Evan, she did it for us, she did it for our friends," Birch said. "In her doing that, she just wanted to give more of him and give back to the people that allowed her to do that."
Birch said that Evan left an imprint on her heart and his friends and family.
Donating his organs and participating in the run allows Casey to continue that legacy, she said.
"This little boy, he came into our lives and he just changed everything," Birch said. "When you know someone like Evan and you get to know someone like Evan, it changes a part of you and you look at people in the world differently.
"Knowing that she [Casey] could give some of him to someone else to help them, it just meant everything to her," she said.
Casey said she is no longer sad about the loss of her son, but glad about the lasting effect he has had on not only her and her family, but his donor recipients.
"We are not sad," Casey said. "Life on earth was not good for him."
Her son was unable to speak, walk or eat normally. He spent much of his life in a hospital as doctors struggled against the multiple medical conditions that cut his life short.
"I'm Catholic, so I very much rely on my faith," she said. "The one thing that got me through this at the end was the fact that, when Evan went to heaven, the very first thing he did was use his legs [for the first time] to walk to Jesus.
"For the little time that we had him, we are far better people for it," Casey said.