Story of Evan Leversage's early Christmas inspires Indian film
More than two years after Evan Leversage’s death, his story is reaching new audiences around the world.
Leversage became known as ‘The Boy Who Moved Christmas’ when, in 2015, his hometown of St. George staged a massive Christmas celebration two months before Christmas Eve.
The seven-year-old boy suffered from a rare and incurable brain tumour. He wanted to see one last Christmas before he died – and, with his prognosis uncertain, the entire St. George community came together to grant that wish. Lights were hung, a parade was organized, and artificial snow was created to help give the event a true December feel.
Leversage’s story caught the attention of people from all over the world. He got support from celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Ashton Kutcher.
Media coverage of the community support for Leversage even reached India, where it popped up on the Facebook feed of Srijit Mukherji.
“The moment I read it, I was so moved. I was actually moved to tears,” Mukherji says.
“I couldn’t imagine what could have actually driven these people to come together to do something like this, something humongous like this, for a child. Such an act of incredible altruism and humanity is something which is so rare.”
Mukherji wanted to bring the story to a bigger audience. As a filmmaker, he knew exactly how he could do it.
He got in touch with Leversage’s mother, Nicole Wellwood, and asked for permission to base a movie on the story of her son’s last Christmas. After taking a moment to digest the request – she describes it as “mind-blowing” – she agreed.
“I have been lucky to learn how Evan has inspired a lot of people,” she says.
“To have somebody reach me from India and tell me the impact – it really makes me speechless.”
Mukherji then got to work making his idea a reality. The result is “Uma”, a movie scheduled to be released in India in early June.
Some changes were made to the story for artistic and cultural reasons. Instead of a mother giving her son a final Christmas, Mukherji’s film tells the story of a father helping his daughter realize her dream of attending a festival in honour of a Hindu goddess.
Photos of Leversage and that special night in 2015 have been selected to be shown at the end of the film, and Wellwood will be travelling to India to see the premiere of “Uma”.
“I’m really dying to show her what Evan and the people of St. George have inspired,” Mukherji says.
Efforts are also underway to screen the movie in Canada, to help raise money for the Evan’s Legacy fund Wellwood started.
If that happens, Mukherji says he’ll make the journey to Canada – and make sure to stop in the community that inspired the film.
“I would like to meet the people of St. George,” he says.
“I think they are a rarity in today’s day and age.”
Shortly before Leversage’s death, Wellwood set up Evan’s Legacy – a foundation dedicated to raising awareness of childhood cancer and brain tumours, and funds to help research those issues.
She describes it as a chance to “make sure children like Evan have that chance that Evan never had,” saying that childhood cancer receives only a small amount of research and funding attention, and much of that is given to more common forms of cancer than the tumour her son developed.
“That doesn’t leave very much funding for children like Evan,” she says.
“Uma” isn’t the only way the story of Evan Leversage and what the people of St. George did for him is about to reach new audiences.
A Quebec filmmaker is working on a French-language movie entitled “Le Noél des Anges,” while Wellwood and author Eric Walters are putting together a book about the experience. Wellwood says the book will likely be released next year.
“There’s been a lot of amazing things happening, and a lot of things that are helping keep Evan’s legacy alive,” Wellwood says.
With reporting by Krista Simpson