On Aug. 9, 15-year-old Rochester Hills resident Evan Sousley hosted a car show fundraiser to benefit the Roseville-based nonprofit Vets Returning Home.

On Aug. 9, 15-year-old Rochester Hills resident Evan Sousley hosted a car show fundraiser to benefit the Roseville-based nonprofit Vets Returning Home.

Photo provided by Evan Sousley

Rochester Hills teen hosts fundraiser for Roseville nonprofit

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published August 21, 2020


ROSEVILLE — Evan Sousley, a 15-year-old from Rochester Hills, has a passion for organizing public events — car shows in particular. He recently put his skills into action by organizing a fundraiser for a Roseville nonprofit.

On Aug. 9, Sousley hosted the Unity Charity Car Meet at the Royalty House Banquet Center in Warren to benefit Vets Returning Home, a group that helps homeless veterans rebuild their lives.

“We were bringing auto enthusiasts together, those who like American cars, Japanese cars, muscle cars, and let them bond while supporting a good cause,” explained Sousley. “We supported Veterans Returning Home, which is based in Roseville. They take homeless veterans off the streets, help get them back on their feet, figure out what their issues are and provide them with assistance.”

Vets Returning Home provides services such as lodging, meals, support, education and employment assistance for veterans who are homeless and having difficulty returning to the community. Cindy Bower, the founder and volunteer director of Vets Returning Home, said she and her organization were very happy to team up with Sousley.

“It was about six weeks ago and they had done a little car show and they wanted to get involved with Vets Returning Home, so it wasn’t a lot of time for us to get involved, but we were thrilled,” she remarked. “We helped them advertise the (Ford Thunderbird) they were raffling off. One of our board members owns the venue and it turned out to be a great way to support them.”

She said that what makes the whole thing even more impressive is that it was all put together by a teenager.

“It’s pretty tremendous that a 15-year-old kid is doing this,” Bower said. “We’ve never done a car show before, and he just knew exactly what to do and how to do it. He took all the heavy lifting off of me and our team of volunteers. Most of the time getting involved in a fundraiser is so laborsome, but this turned out beautifully.”

Rhonda Sousley, Evan’s mother, said her son has always enjoyed bringing people together and doing so in the service of greater causes.

“We like supporting local charities, and this was a great charity to support because of our connection to the military,” she said. “He’s always had a passion for cars and a passion for helping people, so it was the perfect combination.”

“I attend a lot of events, and I decided to start my own, and I realized that a lot of them were not supporting any charities, and I wanted to make that a major part of the things I wanted to start,” her son added.

He reported that the event went well despite concerns about COVID-19 still being on everyone’s minds.

“The event went very well. We had about 100 show cars on display,” he said. “We had several hundred people show up. We posted signs about mask usage and had the venue set up for social distancing. … The police were on hand as well to make sure people were following the rules.”

This was the third event that Sousley has organized, having previously put together similar car shows in Bloomfield Hills and New Haven.

“We raised $2,250 for (Vets Returning Home),” said Sousley. “My family is very involved with the military. The picture of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima actually has one of my relatives in it, so I feel very connected to veterans and those dealing with homelessness.”

Bower said the funds raised will help more than most people realize, as — like many nonprofits — Vets Returning Home is struggling with funding due to COVID-19.

“The money raised will help us keep the lights on,” she said. “We only do two fundraising events all year, and both had to be canceled. I’m not sure what the future holds, but at least this meant we could pay the utility bills for another month. … Everything we do at Vets Returning Home takes a village. We receive no government funding, so we depend on community support. So we are so thankful for the support people have given us. Since we had to cancel our fundraisers, it is so touching to see people work to make sure our veterans have what they need.”

Bower also said that those who wish to support her organization can still buy raffle tickets for a chance to win the Ford Thunderbird. The raffle tickets cost $100.

“We’re still selling the T-Bird tickets. It’s a 2005 50th anniversary final edition convertible with 40,000 miles. The drawing is Oct. 30,” she said. “We need to sell those tickets. We want to sell 1,000 tickets and now we’ve only sold about 90. They can go to www.vetsreturninghome.org to buy the tickets or come by our office at 11 Mile Road and Gratiot Ave.”

Sousley said he hopes he can continue to help and is already planning his next few events.

“We have a big show coming up next year,” he said. “We’re actually working with Dan Gilbert, the owner of Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage, around the time of the Dream Cruise. We might have another later this year as well at the same venue, which was the Royalty House Banquet Hall.”