An Expanded Role

Evan Goodsell had already lived a hard early life, suffering a traumatic brain injury at 6 weeks old that caused him to have permanent disabilities, before meeting Mary Kolodziej.  

Evan was brought into Mary’s family’s home as a foster child.  

Doctors did not expect him to live, Mary says. “They basically just told my parents to please take care of him until he dies because his brain swelling was so severe,” she says. 

But Evan survived and, after several years, Mary’s family adopted him. 

Evan was born the summer before Mary’s senior year of high school. She recalls the dirty looks her parents got from some neighbors back then who did not understand why they would take in foster children. And they certainly did not understand, Mary says, why her white family would adopt an African-American baby with developmental disabilities.  

“People would look at my parents very strange, and my parents would just say, ‘This is our son. This is our son,’” she says.  

The neighbors got over it, Mary says, and learned to accept Evan, whose smile and gentle personality won them over. When she visited her parents’ house recently, many of the same neighbors inquired about Evan’s well-being.  

“All these people who were worried about my parents taking care of him are now worried if he is going to be OK,” Mary says. “He touches everyone because he’s so pure and sweet.”  

About a year ago, Mary became Evan’s legal guardian after her father moved into an assisted living facility as his Alzheimer’s symptoms worsened.  

Evan moved into his current house in Missouri earlier this year after living for a short time in a house managed by another service provider. Mary says Evan thrives with Bethesda.  

“It’s absolutely night and day from the place he was before,” she says. “We were looking for a place where he would feel like part of a family. He’s so vivacious and so personable, and he wants to be out and going. Bethesda has activities all the time and sit-downs for family dinners. That’s what he thrives off of.”  

It was tough to separate her father and Evan, Mary says. Her mother died 13 years ago, and the duo had lived together and become “best buddies” in the ensuing years.  

“I think it kind of broke his heart knowing he couldn’t take care of him anymore,” Mary says.  

But her brother’s group home is located a short distance from his dad’s facility, so the men are still able to see each other frequently.  

Mary, who has power of attorney authority for her father, manages affairs for her dad and brother from her home in Indiana, driving back and forth to Missouri frequently.  

The past year has been hectic. 

“I know that they’re both in a really good and safe place. They are both happy and near each other, and that is important,” she says.

Sibling guardians all have different stories, but what they share is a dedication to their brothers and sisters. People like Mary make a substantial difference every day in their sibling’s life – by supporting and advocating for them, and always caring for and loving them.

Bethesda’s donors also commit to the people we support. You make sure they are never forgotten. You stand by their side. And through your donation and support of Bethesda’s mission, you help to ease the minds of siblings who encounter countless challenges for their brothers and sisters.

Have something to share?

Suggested Content