Whatcom family who lost son to suicide raising money for others

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 31, 2013 

Carlberg Memorial

Adam Carlberg stands in front of his 1978 Ford F-150 in 2008. After Carlberg's suicide in February, his family set up a memorial fund to help other Whatcom County families who have lost children to tragic circumstances.

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Things were a blur for Gina Wassenaar after Feb. 19.

Her son, Adam Carlberg, who seemed so happy just days before, had killed himself at age 22, and the process of memorial planning, funeral planning and picking out the headstone all blended together.

"It was very difficult," she said. "No parent is thinking that one day they're going to be planning their child's funeral or memorial."

Carlberg, who worked at a calf farm, had just gotten settled into the home he bought in Lynden a few months before. His sister, Stephanie Kooistra, described his death as heartbreaking. His step-mother, Heidi Carlberg, said that even months later, it's still a shock, still hard to believe that he's gone.

When Carlberg's family found out that local organization Pass the Hat had covered the funeral costs, they were amazed by the kindness. It took some of the pressure off a family still reeling from the loss of a man his mother described as a hard worker with a heart of gold.

"All these numbers are going through your head: you've got to pay for this, you have to pay for that," Heidi Carlberg said. "We walked into (the funeral home) and they said it'd been taken care of. It was nice that somebody thought enough to do that."

With that act of kindness to spur them on, the family realized that they wanted to be able to help others in their shoes. They brainstormed and decided to set up the Adam Carlberg Memorial Fund to help other Whatcom County families who have lost a child to tragic circumstances.

"Hopefully what we're doing is helping other families to take off maybe a little stress," Wassenaar said. "Nothing's going to make it better. It might just help lift the burden a little bit more."

The family is putting on two events in August to raise money for the memorial fund: a walk-a-thon on Saturday, Aug. 3, at Nooksack Valley High School, and a car wash Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Lynden Whatcom Farmers Co-op, 402 Main St.

They may put on an auction in the fall and would like to do a truck show next year in honor of Carlberg's love of trucks and tractors. Doing good work in his name helps the family feel like Carlberg is still with them, Kooistra said.

"I think he would be very happy that we're doing something to help out other people because he sure was always willing to help people out, always willing to help anybody," Wassenaar said. "In honor of his death, he'd be happy to know that something good came out of it."

GET INVOLVED

The family of Adam Carlberg is raising money to help other families who have lost children to sudden tragedy. Donations can be made to the Adam Carlberg Memorial Fund at any branch of Peoples Bank. Or donate by getting involved in these fundraising events:

• Adam Carlberg Memorial Walk-a-thon, 10 a.m. to noon, with a 9 a.m. registration, Saturday, Aug. 3, at Nooksack Valley High School, 3326 E. Badger Road. A donation of $20 is suggested.

• Adam Carlberg Memorial Car Wash, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Whatcom Farmers Co-op, 402 Main St., Lynden. A $10 donation is suggested.

Anyone interested in sponsoring these fundraisers or contributing supplies for the events can call 360-318-8165.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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