The last thing parents ever expect to lose is their children, yet Adam D. Nevells was only 17 years old when he lost his life to a tragic car collision on Jolly Road in 2009. To this day, the Okemos High School (OHS) senior is survived by his parents, Michael and Elaine Nevells, and his brother, Matthew.
After celebrating Adam’s life back in 2009 and witnessing hundreds of community members honor his passing, some time had passed when only immediate family was left in the room. After casual and nervous conversation, Matthew suddenly raised his head up and urged his family to consider the life-altering decision before them.
“He’s quiet for a minute,” said Michael, a senior account executive at the Lansing-based Go Solutions. “Then he snapped his head and said, ‘You know, we have a choice to make. We can go hide in the basement, put a black veil over our head and mourn that we’ve lost Adam. Or we can accept that there’s a red pickup truck in everybody’s future … and that we only have a finite amount of time. We can choose to celebrate Adam’s life.’”
As of 2017, the Adam D. Nevells Memorial Fund has invested $27,000 back into the Okemos community through individual scholarships and grants. Created from Adam’s life insurance policy, the 501(c)(3) organization continues his legacy through the Capital Region Community Foundation, a tax-exempt public charity which serves and enhances the quality of life for people in Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties.
Adam’s parents and brother are technically designated officers for the Memorial Fund. But that’s never been at the top of their minds when coming together to ensure Adam’s name lives on — they’re more like advocates. The family is always ready to talk about Adam’s story at any time while offering support to other families going through similar grief.
“It’s daily,” said Elaine, a licensed physical therapist at Sparrow Hospital. “I will share in Adam’s story — talk about Adam — instead of having a heavy heart and dwelling on something I can’t change.”
Every year, the Memorial Fund provides individual scholarships toward groups that Adam was not only a part of, but integral in. At OHS, Adam was a captain for wrestling and water polo teams, as well as a saxophone player in concert and marching bands. Not only was he a constant force in a variety of community youth programs rooted at the Martin Luther Chapel, but he was also a Boy Scout Troop 125 Eagle Scout candidate — all while maintaining a 3.7 GPA in school.
“As much heart and energy as Adam put into water polo as a teammate, he did that in music; he did that in Scouts,” said Elaine.
Over the years, the Nevells have discovered just how much Adam’s story has impacted other teenagers. They’ve stayed in contact with recipients and continue to hear feedback on how Adam’s life has increased their stamina to move forward and to go to college. True to Adam’s nature, each scholarship is considered independent of each other for passionate students.
“They’re independent [scholarships] as far as we’re concerned,” Michael said. “If Adam was here and there were three scholarships, he’d apply to all of them and fully expect to win all three. He wouldn’t, but that would be Adam.”
The aspiration of the Memorial Fund is to exist in perpetuity, and the Nevells are well on their way of reaching their $100,000 goal. With the base of the account going untouched and building interest, the Memorial Fund is more than 70 percent of the way to decades of self-sustainability.
The two biggest contributors to the Memorial Fund are the Annual Golf Outing & Dinner and Annual Wrestling Tournament, but the Nevells have found that the unwavering love and support of the community has brought everything together.
“We survive and continue to survive over these years because we’re a strong core family, but also because the Okemos community is very strong. The love and support continues today,” said Elaine. “Adam’s band director has had a foursome at the golf outing every single year; his wrestling coach has had a foursome at the golf outing every single year. Whatever we need … they drop what they’re doing and will be there.”
While they appreciate all the support of time and donations, everything they do ultimately goes back to continuing the legacy of Adam: a son, brother, grandchild, nephew, cousin and friend to many.
“If it ends up being just us that come out late August … we’re ahead of the game,” said Michael. “If a few people join us and donate a couple of bucks to put into the Fund, all the better. But this has grown each year.”
The 7th Annual Golf Outing & Dinner will be held Sunday, Aug. 27 at Wheatfield Valley Golf Course in Williamston, Mich. For more information, visit squareup.com/store/okemos-wrestling-inc. To learn more about contributing directly to the Adam D. Nevells Memorial Fund, visit crcfoundation.org. Contributions can be made payable to the Community Foundation with the notation “Adam D. Nevells Memorial Fund” on the memo line.
Kristopher Johnson is a Communications Specialist at M3 Group, earning his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. While currently residing in Lansing, Kristopher will always be a native of Detroit. He enjoys volunteering, listening to others and musing over contrasting insights. He is also fond of writing, keeping up with politics and watching too much story-driven anime.