RACELAND, La. (AP) — Whenever he visits a store or restaurant with a claw machine, Evans Adams will take his chance.
He calls it an addiction, but he figures there are worse habits. The dashboard and back seat of his car are filled with brightly colored stuffed animals, from monkeys to bears to dogs.
It started as just a fun game, but Adams has found a way to bring that joy to local kids. The Raceland resident gives his prizes to law enforcement officers and other first responders so they can hand them out to the children they encounter.
Each has a tag with a label reading: "You are receiving this gift in memory of Suzette J. Adams." The label also features a red rose, the favorite flower of Adams' wife of 37 years, whom he lost to cancer in 2012.
"I want to start falling down, but when I can give something like this, it picks me back up," Adams said. "It helps out the kids, but it helps me out too."
Adams worked for the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office from 1998 to 2015 as a correctional officer in the Transitional Work Program. His wife was a reservist from 2006 to 2012.
Lt. Valerie Martinez, supervisor of the Sheriff's Office's Police Social Services Section, said Adams told another officer he'd been giving out stuffed animals. That officer suggested he contact Martinez, who made labels for the toys.
"Mrs. Sue was a great woman - hilarious, very outgoing," Martinez said. "She just liked to make people feel good. ... We work with victims of crime out of our office, so we come into contact with children daily. It may be the worst day of their life. They may be upset, they may be scared, and it just gives them a little bit of peace. It's just great to be able to put a smile on their face and let them forget about that pain for that moment."
Adams is no stranger to hard times. In 1979, he lost his arm in a forklift accident. That same year, he lost both of his parents, got in a car crash and was told he could no longer collect Social Security.
"If my wife wouldn't have been there, I probably wouldn't have lasted," he said. "She never said a word. She never complained. She stood by my side."
He said his wife worked with Head Start. Even while undergoing chemotherapy, she showed generosity by making blankets for people.
"She would give her last dollar to help out people. That's the way she was," Adams said. "She loved life. She loved people, and she loved kids."
Adams gave a stuffed animal to a woman who'd lost her baby and a young girl battling cancer. He also gave one to a Thibodaux Police officer to hand out to a child, and he's dropped them off at Acadian Ambulance.
Martinez said people can drop off donations of new stuffed animals to any Sheriff's Office location.
She said a little girl was at Police Social Services in tears. The girl was given one of Adams' stuffed animals.
"She grabbed onto it, hugged onto it like that was her best friend. It was just comfort for her," Martinez said. "It speaks for the human spirit that at his time of loss and tragedy, he's still wanting to help and put a smile on someone's face when he sometimes has a hard time putting a smile on his face. ... There's always a 'wow' factor like, 'That's for me?' It's great to see that joy that a stuffed animal brings to a child."
Posted on Fri, July 14, 2017
by BRIDGET MIRE, The Courier