Two years ago when Shawn Evans, a pastor at Valpo Nazarene Church, began a breakfast tradition with his son and some of his friends, he never thought it would grow to be a safe haven for 30 to 40 other student athletes.
It all started with Valparaiso High School’s late-start Wednesdays, giving Evans and the group of young men some morning meet-up time at Schoops.
“They would talk about their day, or their week and just what was on their minds,” Evans said. “I’d end the last ten minutes with some Biblical truth, to help them know they’re not alone, and give some encouragement. It started out with eight, and then a lot of athletes started showing up.”
Evans said the group is mostly made up of Valparaiso High School students who are members of the football, basketball, baseball, track and other boys athletic teams.
As seats and tables filled up week after week, the group moved their weekly breakfasts to Nazarene Church to accommodate everyone. When late-start Wednesdays were canceled, it didn’t stop the Breakfast Club, as they came to be known, from their pancake-fueled fellowship time.
They now meet every Monday at 6 p.m. at the church, located at 2702 E. Glendale Blvd., but still enjoy flapjacks and sausage per usual. Evans said he gets funny reactions when he invites people to join them for breakfast, even if it’s at 6 p.m.
No matter the time or place, Evans uses the occasion to help build the students up amidst any challenges they may be facing, and celebrate with them in their victories, too.
“There are three lies the world tells people: ‘You are what you have, you are what you do, and you are what others say about you,’” Evans said. “This gives them a chance to be their authentic selves, to laugh, to be there for each other. We call it the Breakfast Club, but it’s not really a ‘club.’ Anyone can come out on Monday nights.”
Sarah Evans Opperman, a mother of one of the student athletes, thanked Sean Evans for beginning and continuing the Monday night gatherings.
“The benefits from his positive, encouraging, faith-driven Breakfast Club are endless,” Opperman said. “I am incredibly thankful for his sincere dedication to the youth in our community- he is a blessing.”
Evans said the young men are doing great things in the community and beyond, from heading to a mission trip in Guatemala to standing up for young bullying victims in town.
“A few students put on their jerseys and went to Cooks Corners Elementary School to have lunch with a kid who was being picked on, it was really amazing,” Evans said. “So we’re looking on how we can maybe help in elementary schools, too.”
As 2018 picks up momentum, Evans and the more than 30 student athletes are keeping the tradition strong and continuing on.
“They’re a diverse group of young men,” Evans said. “They make Monday nights a joy. They all come from different backgrounds, different walk of life, different stories- they’re something else.”