MU Athletics chef realizes dream of becoming a children's author

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COLUMBIA - When Stephen Evans took a volunteer trip to the Maldives to help out as a sports coach, he had no idea his life would be changed forever.

Evans traveled to 23 countries before the age of 22 while in the Navy, but it was that trip to the Maldives that helped him go on a path he thought he would never see.

Evans is a chef for Mizzou Athletics and has worked there for seven years. In his spare time, he writes children stories on his phone.

While in the Maldives, a school principal told Evans what the volunteer program really needed was someone who could help the children learn English.

Evans saw it as the perfect opportunity to turn his hobby into something useful.

So he returned home and put together a small book he called Maldivian Stephen filled with pictures of his trip and simple sentences to help the children learn.

Evans returned the following year and gave each of the students a book. He read it to them and also read them one of the stories he had on his phone.

"It was just amazing, you know? You could feel the energy from them and it was just like, wow. So I came back on fire ready to make books," Evans said.

After trying hard to make contacts, Evans had a friend put him in touch with an artist who could illustrate his books.

Evans met with Mic Ru, a fellow veteran, five days later and they agreed to work together.

When Evans' debut book was finally published, his mom got her copy first.

"She called me crying because she was happy. And i remember thinking 'now I want to see the book!' But that meant a lot," Evans said.

He said making the book happen took a lot of work, but was more than worth the effort.

"It gives me a different perspective. You know, it just calms everything else that's going on a lot of the times," Evans said.

A licensed social worker said Evans' experience show how important it is to have a hobby. Debbie Diner said not taking time from the day to pursue a passion can affect how a person lives.

"You can't have the quality of life you need. We forget that as we get into adulthood that stuff is just as important as when we were kids,"  she said.

Evans will continue to work at his full-time job, but hopes to make many more books.