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Joy in the midst of tragedy
Grieving family surprised with gifts and a visit from Santa
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Editor's note: Few stories we've heard are as tragic as the one that saw a wife lose her husband on a wedding anniversary and two sons lose their father on a trip to see Santa. Our reporter Amber Pittman was moved to organize a special Christmas gift for the grieving Evans family. She contacted and coordinated with the Covington Police Department and the local Covington Santa to surprise the family with gifts and some Christmas joy in the midst of a tragedy.

What started 20 years ago ended tragically Monday evening when Christopher Tyler Evans was killed in a car accident in Athens. In a story that keeps getting sadder, Evans' children Joel and Chase were afforded a moment of joy with a home visit from Santa - the big man they were on the way to visit when their father's life was cut tragically short.

Known as Tyler to his friends, the 37-year-old, along with his wife Sabrina and his two boys - Joel, 7, and Chase, 5, - were on their way to visit Santa and to celebrate the couple's 14-year anniversary at Carrabba's Italian Grill - his favorite restaurant, when life changed forever.

According to article by The Athens Banner-Herald, Evans was killed shortly after 6 p.m., when the car he was riding in turned into the path of an oncoming Jeep, which struck the car and killed Evans.

The driver of the Jeep was a 16-year-old Oconee County High School student who was leaving a volunteer activity and heading to his job at a nursing home, according to The Banner-Herald.

Evans' wife, who was driving the car, and his two sons were treated at Athens Regional Medical Center and released Monday night, The Banner-Herald reported. The teen reportedly suffered only minor injuries.

"I heard my son scream from the backseat that he couldn't breathe," said Sabrina, her voice catching. "I made myself get out of the car and get to him and I didn't get to my husband."

Tyler and Sabrina were high school sweethearts who met while attending the same school in Louisiana. They married in 1998. The couple had lived with his parents for a decade and had just purchased their first home.

"He was such a loving husband," Sabrina remembered.

"This is a story that just got sadder," Athens-Clarke police Lt. Don Eckert told the Banner-Herald. "It was a tough accident to work."

But Thursday, a dark time had a little bit of sunshine come through when Santa visited the boys at their home. With the assistance of the Covington Police Department's Police Who Care Fund, the family was given nearly $1,000 worth of gifts. Some of them toys for Joel and Chase to open on Christmas, some for them to open on their birthdays, on the 21st and 31st of this month. Sabrina was also given roughly $100 in gift cards to local businesses that she could use for herself and the boys.

When they opened the front door and saw Santa standing there with a big present to open right away, Joel beamed and Chase looked a little overwhelmed, but the two sat next to the big guy as he showed them some of his secret goodies, like his special magic key and pocket watch. They each agreed to go to bed early on Christmas Eve and to leave Santa a special treat - chocolate milk - so that he could always remember their house.

"I hope you both have a wonderful Christmas, and God bless you and your family," Santa told them, a sad smile on his cheerful face, before he left. The boys made sure to give thanks and hugs to every officer and Covington Police employee who had come to deliver presents before they left, leaving even the most hardened law enforcement officers with tears in their eyes.

"He loved them boys," said Sabrina crying. "The boys were his life. He loved them more than anybody in the world."