Burial of young drowning victim stalled by funeral costs

Chance Van Valkenburgh died after getting caught in weeds while swimming in Marysville.

Chance Van Valkenburgh, 16, drowned Aug. 29 at Gissberg Twin Lakes in Marysville.

Chance Van Valkenburgh, 16, drowned Aug. 29 at Gissberg Twin Lakes in Marysville.

Chance Van Valkenburgh was doing what teenage boys do, his mother said.

Since Aug. 29, when her 16-year-old son drowned at Gissberg Twin Lakes in Marysville, Alisia Martinez has lived with grief. The Everett woman and the rest of Chance’s family are also struggling to pay for his burial expenses.

“He was a very loving kid. He would do anything for anybody,” Martinez said. “He was 16. He did what 16-year-old boys do.”

It was a hot afternoon when a friend lost sight of Chance as he swam in the southern lake at Twin Lakes, a Snohomish County park west of I-5 near Smokey Point.

Witnesses told police he’d been caught in weeds while swimming. Search crews found his body about an hour after his disappearance was reported. His drowning death was ruled an accident by the medical examiner’s office.

Thomas Van Valkenburgh, Chance’s father, and Martinez offered prayers and goodbyes to Chance during a viewing Wednesday at Everett’s Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery. But there was no burial. The family can’t afford the burial plot they have chosen, cemetery officials said. Evergreen Funeral Home is accepting donations, in the name of Chance Van Valkenburgh, to cover the plot and related costs.

“I’ve been working with the family along with the funeral director, Roger Johnson,” said Diane Larson, a family service adviser at Evergreen Funeral Home. “What we’re doing is accepting any monies anyone would like to donate. Call our office and give us a credit card over the phone, or come in with cash, a check or cashier’s check — any form of payment.”

Larson estimates the costs, without a headstone, at about $6,300. Evergreen would proceed with services and inurnment, with burial in the chosen plot, when those costs are paid, she said. One of Chance’s friends brought in a $200 donation earlier this week, another funeral home worker said.

Evergreen is part of the Dignity Memorial network of funeral homes and cemeteries, all affiliates of Texas-based Service Corporation International. A Dignity official said Thursday there were “lesser options” than the plot selected by Chance’s family. The plot alone is $4,500, she said.

“It’s what they want and feel right about,” said the Dignity official, adding that the company donated the casket and viewing. “If they want to have a service, we will host that as well at no charge,” she added.

Marysville’s Shannon Edwins, who contacted The Daily Herald about the family’s need for burial money, learned about Chance through a friend who had helped his family. Edwins, who lost her 25-year-old son, Max, in 2015, has since been in touch with Chance’s mother.

“I really struggled to come up with funds for my son,” Edwins said. People she knew “got together and came up with all the money to bury my son.”

Edwins said that Everett’s Marla Scow “helped raise Chance.”

“He and his mom did stay with us for a while in 2015,” Scow said Thursday. Her daughter had been friends with Chance’s older brothers. Chance and his mom stayed a couple of months, before “they were able to get on their feet,” Scow said.

“Chance was a good kid,” Scow said. “My oldest daughter, Carlita, he was really attached to her. He would follow her around, and say ‘Where are you going? Can I go with you?’ ”

Scow said Chance would hang out with her, too. “We would watch TV together. He talked about his future,” said Scow, who saw real potential in the boy who was planning to get his GED. “He was really unique. It was nice to see that he was starting to think about his future.”

Chance had six siblings, three older and three younger. His father lives in Indiana, and Chance lived there until about two years ago.

His mother said he had planned to attend Marysville Getchell High School’s Academy of Construction and Engineering, but had some trouble and left school. “He went to WorkSource and signed up for the GED program the week before his passing,” Martinez said.

“He was very fun-loving. He’d do crazy things,” said Thomas Van Valkenburgh, Chance’s dad. He recalled a time when his son entertained a little sister by putting her tutu on his head. “He loved to make people laugh,” Van Valkenburgh said.

A longtime tow-trucker driver, Van Valkenburgh had sometimes taken Chance to work. “Everybody in that industry, they all remember him,” he said.

Chance loved being around his much younger siblings, his father said. “They don’t understand why the water hurt him.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.

How to help

Donations to help pay burial expenses for Chance Van Valkenburgh, a 16-year-old drowning victim, may be dropped off at or mailed to Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery, 4504 Broadway, Everett WA 98203. For more information, call 425-252-2244.

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