Downers Grove South community remembers 15-year-old Evan Melau
He was a little guy with a big positive spirit and ever-present smile.
He played three sports, and gave his heart to all three.
And teammates loved Evan Melau.
Evan, a 15-year-old Downers Grove boy who just completed his freshman year at Downers Grove South High School, is being remembered this week by those around the school's athletic programs and the community.
Evan was struck by a car in a hit-and-run crash at 1535 W. 75th St. in Woodridge about 8:25 p.m. June 19, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Evan was attempting to cross 75th Street and was struck in the eastbound lane, police said.
Woodridge police are investigating with assistance from the Metropolitan Emergency Response and Investigation Team, a countywide major crash reconstruction team.
Evan, the middle of three siblings, played football, basketball and baseball at Downers Grove South. His basketball coach, Eric Baugh, remembered a boy who was "always smiling."
"When I met him, it's funny, he's small, and he's got this smile on his face," Baugh said. "I could get on him as a coach, and he still had this smile on his face. It makes you love him."
Baugh remembered, starting with tryouts, telling other coaches, "I got this kid, and there is something about him."
"He was always just so positive of a young man," Baugh said. "His personality, all the kids loved him. I said to the other coaches, 'I got to have him on our team.' He worked very hard. He wanted to get better every day in practice on top of being a great young man. Everybody loved him. That is why this is so hard."
Evan attended O'Neill Middle School in Downers Grove before high school and played travel basketball with the Nomads basketball program from 2016 to 2019. The Nomads organization has started a GoFundMe fundraising campaign in Evan's memory. As of Wednesday morning, it had raised $17,665. Meanwhile, the RakeCity Baseball program's GoFundMe account has raised $9,260.
Mike Crowley, who coached Evan for four years with the Nomads, first met him when Evan was in the fifth grade. Right away, Crowley saw something in him.
"I knew he was a little spark plug, a little smaller in stature all the way through eighth grade, but he never let anything bother him. He never gave in," Crowley said. "There were times that he played with a chip on his shoulder and was so competitive. Beyond that he was an amazing teammate. He would stick up for his friends no matter what."
Baseball to Evan was life, a sport he was devoted to back to the third or fourth grade. Basketball was his second love.
"He had a passion for it," Crowley said. "Sixth or seventh grade, when we started running plays, I would teach the kids five or six plays to take home and learn. He would come back to the next practice and know them. There was never a question about his passion. He wanted to be the best he possibly can."
An honor roll student both semesters at Downers Grove South, Evan played receiver and defensive back for the Mustangs' freshman football team.
His position coach, Arthur Drenth, remembered a boy who was always on time, ready to go.
"He was just a very dedicated football player," Drenth said. "He was never late, always there, and when it was time to go, you never had to worry. He was very respectful of his teammates and coaches and he was just fun to watch."
Drenth recalled a game against Willowbrook in which Evan took a handoff and was 10 yards down the field before anyone knew it.
"He was there from Day 1 of summer camp, always ready to work, he was just a fun kid to be around," Drenth said. "We're going to miss him."
Brett Wolf, freshman baseball coach at Downers Grove South, said it was common for Evan to come to offseason baseball workouts after his basketball games were done.
"Where some kids might be looking to take shortcuts, Evan would be at school from 8 a.m. in the morning to 10 p.m. at night," Wolf said. "And you couldn't even tell because he didn't look tired. He was the hardest-working kid in the gym. The way he lifted weights compared to his peers, he got after it. His teammates looked up to him and he challenged himself."
Wolf said he's heard from Evan's peers how much he loved baseball. Crowley never coached Evan in baseball but said "he was a huge baseball fan," a middle infielder "quick as blazes."
Evan played second base at Downers Grove South.
"I think baseball meant a lot to him, personally," Wolf said. "He was just an incredible kid, extremely friendly and nice. He was one of the shorter guys on the field and nobody messed with him. That is not what defined him, though. He was a really kindhearted kid."
Memories from Evan's former teachers and friends, and neighboring schools have flowed throughout social media.
"Evan was an amazing kid," tweeted Robert Mueller, a science teacher at O'Neill. "He and I bonded over sports, but he was always willing to learn and put himself out there in class."
"Evan was such a pleasure to have at O'Neill in eighth grade," tweeted Haley Vermeer, O'Neill assistant principal. "He always greeted me with a smile and was always willing to stop and let me know how he was doing. Such a kind young man."
Beyond sports, Crowley said Evan was a kid who just loved to be with his friends. Crowley remembered a core group of kids who stuck together like glue.
"He had a lot of really close friends," Crowley said. "That was his thing. He loved to be with his friends and he loved his family."
A visitation For Evan is scheduled from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday with the funeral service at 8 p.m. at Adolf Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Ltd., 7000 S. Madison St., in Willowbrook.