Donor Profile: Jason Evchich '99
Jason and Jennifer Evchich prefer the term “limited editions” rather than special needs for their sons, Mason, 6 and Matthew, 5, both living with a form of leukodystrophy.
“The term suggests unique and distinctive, which the boys certainly are,” says Jason Evchich, who earned a degree in business management from Canisius College. “They may be limited in some abilities – we all are – but they have inspired us to help families like ours build inclusive lifestyles in the community.”
Evchich explains that the rare disorder means the boys cannot walk, talk, crawl or play outside with their older sister, McKenna. A visit to a neighborhood playground reminded the Evchichs of how limited opportunities were for special needs families to interact with others. The couple set out to find a playground their sons could use, and in the process founded Mason’s Mission Foundation, which is centered on the belief that every child deserves a right to play.
Mason’s Mission has partnered with towns and schools in Western New York to design and build ADA- (Americans with Disabilities Act) approved, special-needs playgrounds created around the idea of inclusiveness. The playgrounds feature equipment that can accommodate wheelchairs, sensory areas for autistic children and other equipment designed for assisted and supported play.
Fundraising efforts and volunteer labor have resulted in two completed Mason’s Mission playgrounds – in Pendleton and at the boys’ school in Tonawanda. Another is underway in the Village of Lewiston.
As part of their efforts, the Evchichs also established the Mason’s Mission Foundation Creating Inclusive Lifestyles Scholarship at Canisius. The scholarship annually awards a student studying to become either a special education teacher, physical therapist or occupational therapist.
“Our goal is to encourage students to enter these fields because, speaking from firsthand experience, there is a constant and growing need,” Evchich says. “It is also a way to give back to Canisius where I learned the skills that helped make Mason’s Mission a reality.”
Katie S. Braungart ’19 received the inaugural Mason’s Mission scholarship this semester. She was selected from more than a dozen applicants.
“The Foundation’s maxim – because every child deserves the right to play – is something very close to my heart,” Braungart says. “The scholarship is a huge help in obtaining my special education degree and I am grateful to be selected from among so many qualified candidates.”