U.S. Military Disabled Vets & others suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries
Laura, our C.E.O. is an Army BRAT & I, Kevan Evans, one of the creators of The Predator, am a survivor of an near-deadly attack, which left me with a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Our goal is to purchase the manufacturing machines and tools to allow us to employ the invisibly disabled, U.S. Military Vets & others suffering from TBIs. Read more about our story & why we want to help below. You can donate below & help us help give these invisibly disabled Vets and their families hope & a better future.
My name is Kevan Evans. I am a long time fly fisherman. Fly fishing has saved me over and over again and helped me overcome the effects of a traumatic brain injury ("TBI")(severe frontal lobe damage). My family and I (along with an Engineer who is engineering the vise and other products we are developing), are starting this company to bring innovation and exceptional products to the fly fishing industry and to employ U.S. Military Veterans ("Vets"), who, like me, suffer from TBIs. Because we know how devastating and hopeless a life dealing with a TBI is, we want to help other invisibly disabled Vets (and their families) by providing them with employment, in the hopes that they may regain much deserved pride and/or at the very least the ability to buy their loved ones gifts during the Holidays, an ability which many have lost as a result of their TBI or other disabilities.
I grew up in the hills of Shasta County, California. I spent much of my time hanging around The Fly Shop of Redding, and learning the craft of fly tying from Mike Mercer and others. I went to college with a double major in forestry and law enforcement, intent on working for Fish & Game after graduation.
At the age of 20, I woke up in a hospital, informed by a team of medical providers that I had died 3 times on the operating table, while doctors toiled to save me from severe brain hemorrhaging. Law enforcement could not tell me what had happened, aside from the fact that I was found bleeding out of my eyes, ears, and nose, most likely the result of a random assault, which I have no recollection of to this day. Aside from the total loss of my sense of smell, and having to relearn many basic functions (some more embarrassing than others), at that time, I had no idea the devastation this TBI would cause in my life. Soon, I realized my short term memory was waning and math skills diminishing. Being a Fish & Game warden was no longer possible.
Soon thereafter, I moved to Colorado to start over. I became a fly fishing guide as that was something I could still do to without the embarrassment of constant failure. Sharing my love of fly fishing and fly tying with others brought me great joy. But behind the scenes my brain injury was getting worse and having more and more negative effects on my life.
I met my wife a few years later snowboarding at Copper Mountain. We had a Fairy Tale romance snowboarding, fly fishing, and playing in the mountains of Colorado. Our beautiful daughter followed soon thereafter (she's 14 now and ties flies like her Dad). But we struggled as a new family. We did not yet understand why my brain injury was taking such an enormous toll on our lives.
After a couple years of struggle, my wife went to law school when she received a scholarship she could not refuse. She graduated and passed the bar with flying colors. Throughout these early years, I grew more and more depressed at my inability to maintain work and support my family. Because I did not understand why I could not maintain work for any length of time, I was suicidal, depressed, angry, frustrated, embarrassed, scared, and felt I had been cursed. My TBI caused a great deal of angry outbursts (another symptom I was not aware of at the time). Also at that time, I did not understand that all of these symptoms were caused by my TBI. I just chalked it up to being the loser that everyone told me I was. As a result, I was in and out of counseling and mental stabilization units, struggling to keep it together.
Until one day, my wife put two & two together after finding a website about symptoms of frontal lobe damage as a result of a TBI. I could have been a poster child for people with frontal lobe damage. We began to wonder why no one in the mental health care industry, had linked any of my behavioral problems to my brain injury, despite having put the TBI on any paperwork I provided them. Once we clarified this with my therapist, my mental health care treatment began to improve. I found a wonderful woman in Summit County, Colorado who knew a great deal about brain injuries and she began to help me. It wasn’t until then, my life began to improve.
These struggles taught me a great deal about what others with TBIs are dealing with. Also, while I was in these mental stabilization units, I met many disabled Vets who had suffered TBIs. These brave men and women have given years of their lives (among other things) to fight for the freedoms we take for granted, are compensated very little to do so, and then return home unable to find and/or to maintain a job as a result of their TBI.
Look online and see the statistics about the numbers of people with TBIs who fill our jails and prisons, who end up homeless on the street, or who end up in mental institutions. This is no mistake. The problem with TBIs is that our brains no longer function the way they once had. The symptoms include markedly increased depression and suicide rates, increased anger and irritability, decreased short term and long term memory, inability to maintain employment, and the list goes on and on... What’s worse is that while our brains are scarred, unlike those who have lost limbs, etc., others cannot see our scars and, therefore, have no empathy for the struggles we face. But our struggles are just as real and just as daunting. We walk down the street and people judge us for our behavior because they cannot see the scars we carry. We are called losers, we are called bums. But what we really are, are the Invisibly Disabled.
What’s worse is that our families struggle alongside of us. They deal with our depression, anger, frustration, and inability to maintain employment. Their hurt only magnifies our depression and frustration. It is a vicious cycle, which only those that suffer from TBIs and their families can understand.
And because are scars are often equally as invisible to the general public, they are also invisible to the health care industry (including mental healthcare), who, until recently, knew very little, if anything, about TBIs and how to treat them beyond treating the initial injury. Sadly, for those of us who survive the initial injury, the real and most daunting problems begin once we walk out the hospital doors. Because so little was known about TBIs, we were often treated with anti-depressants, anti-psychotic drugs, and other drugs that too often, instead of making things better, they make things worse. They were treating us for mental health disorders (chemical imbalances, etc.) but that is not what we are suffering from. We are suffering from irreversible brain damage. The healthcare industry is truly just now beginning to understand the difficulties we face.
Little did we know, my struggles were just part of the many difficulties our family had yet to face. After law school, my wife began working in criminal defense and family and loved helping others find their way through some of the most difficult times of their life. Her knowledge about TBIs helped her help others in the courtroom who suffered similar difficulties that I dealt with. But tragedy struck again. She began getting sick. She had a thick layer of psoriasis on her scalp, her neck was bent in the wrong direction, her knee and other joints gave out, and she could barely get out of bed due to pain and exhaustion. She soon learned she had a neurological disorder and psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune inflammatory disease that attacks the joints, cartilage, organs, and tendons, for which stress was the number one trigger. It was her career or her health. She stepped down from her career as an attorney and is going back to her art and running our company, Force Fly Fishing, Inc.
We were now at a crossroads. While I had success and acclaim as a fly tyer, it did not come with any financial reward or income, and I have been unable to support my family. Something had to give…
Like a ray of hope or stroke of luck, I met Chris, an engineer who was dabbling in building a fly tying vise. We began working closely together and developed an exciting, innovative, and feature-filled fly tying vise... The Predator.
This vise is making waves in the industry already. Aside from the immediate reaction and positive feedback, we get from people based upon the aesthetics of the vise alone, based upon the review the vise has received by famous, professional, average, and beginner tyers once they actually get their hands on The Predator, we anticipate that this vise will be BIG, not only in stature but in popularity.
With the hope of giving back to our disabled Vets, who struggle with the calamities we have dealt with from TBIs, we are endeavoring to raise the funds to buy the materials, the machines, the tools, and monies pay for labor to build these vises and to market them. Our dream and hope is to enable these invisibly disabled U.S. Vets who have given so much to us.
We are doing this all ourselves. In an effort to keep costs down and achieve our goals, we are not outsourcing people to do our marketing, legal work (business set up, contracts, etc.), accounting, etc. We’ve sold over half of our belongings and are living in an RV so that we can travel and promote the vise at fly fishing and tying conventions and other events and shows.
After years of struggle my family and I have endured as a result of my TBI, we feel it is not only our passion but our duty to help. We intend to offer them employment, understanding, and support that they rarely find in other employers. Furthermore, we hope to share with them the only form of therapy that has truly helped me in dealing with the difficulties I have faced…. Fly fishing and tying.
But we cannot do it without your help. If you wish to help but cannot assist us monetarily, you can help us by telling others about our Company and our mission, and encourage them to read our story and learn about our mission. Every contribution, monetary or otherwise, is enormously toward our goal, is enormously helpful, important, and appreciated.
Founder of Force Fly Fishing, Inc.