Evan Girardi was a member of the Hopkinton High School class of 2007. He was born with a congenital heart defect, and he passed away from an arrhythmia 11 years ago.
Born in California, Evan moved to Hopkinton with his family to be near Boston Children’s Hospital. During their time at BCH, they learned about families having trouble finding inexpensive places to stay while their children were being treated.
After Evan’s passing, some of his high school friends and fellow graduates, Jack Nealon, Whitney Mullen and Shane Lavoie, wanted to honor him.
In 2013, Evan’s friends founded Live4Evan, an organization that provides housing to families while their children are being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“We heard stories of people staying in cars, sleeping at the bedside at the hospital, in a chair,” said Lavoie, treasurer of Live4Evan. “It can be pretty upsetting to hear about that.”
Currently, the organization leases four apartments at the Longwood Galleria in Boston. The fourth apartment opened Nov. 1. The apartment building is connected to Boston Children’s Hospital.
“People do not have to leave the [building] in order to get to the hospital to be bedside with their child,” said Lavoie.
The organization hopes to have 10 apartments within the next four years. To help achieve that goal, Solect Energy, a solar energy company based in Hopkinton, is matching up to $25,000 in donations that Live4Evan raises this year.
Solect has been a partner to Live4Even since its founding. The daughter of Solect CEO Ken Driscoll went to Hopkinton High School when Evan and the organization’s founders attended.
Affordable patient-family housing is in high demand. Families for treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital often have to stay for an extended period of time. The average length a family lives in a Live4Evan apartment is around six weeks, but a few families have stayed for six months, with one family needing to stay nine months.
“Some families really have nowhere to go, and maybe they’ll stay in a hotel for some period of time,” said Lavoie. “But if they cannot afford it, they cannot do that.”
Live4Evan keeps one apartment free for families who cannot afford the cost, and the other three apartments are $40 per night. Families who stay in a hotel often have to spend around $300 per night.
The organization has helped more than 50 families. Because Live4Evan’s apartments are at full capacity, 75 percent of applicants are being turned away.
“Four years from now, we want to have 10 apartment units open so that we can really satisfy that demand,” said Lavoie. “We’re very thankful to Ken Driscoll and Solect Energy for supporting us in this.”
This year’s goal is to raise $100,000. Live4Evan is encouraging people to commit to a recurring donation (visit live4evan.org/donate for information) to help with the monthly costs associated with leasing an apartment, including rent and utilities.
Said Lavoie: “Something that speaks a lot to who [Evan] was as a person is that all these years later, people are still coming out to support him and honor his memory.”