Palatine family creates scholarship foundation to honor memory of 16-year-old son
The waves of grief come in unpredictable spurts, like when Marisa Marton opened the freezer, touched a package of frozen pasta and felt tears spring as memories came flooding about an evening when her eldest son was still alive.
Sixteen-year-old Andrew Marton of Palatine died after a dirt bike accident in April, an unspeakable loss for his parents and younger brother.
Now Marisa Marton is throwing her energy into the new AndrewStrong Foundation, started by her and her husband with the help of family and friends. The foundation will give scholarships to high school seniors and provide financial assistance for students of all ages to fund extracurricular trips, sports equipment, musical instruments and more, she said.
Andrew's mother registered the foundation with the state last month and started the process of seeking federal 501(c)3 nonprofit status. The first fundraiser, a golf outing and dinner Oct. 16, already is sold out.
Golf was among the sports loved by Andrew, a student at Palatine High School who also competed in hockey, water polo and swimming. The high school golf team's home course is Palatine Hills Golf Course, where the fundraiser will be held.
"We thought it would be a great way to celebrate him," his mother said, adding the golf course intends to plant an Autumn Blaze maple tree in Andrew's honor.
Andrew died April 21, three days after he lost control of his dirt bike and crashed into a tree while on a ride with his father, Adam.
Her son started riding ATVs and motorized vehicles at age 3 and got his first dirt bike when he was in the second grade, his mother said. When he crashed, he was wearing a helmet that flew off on impact, she said.
"He was not an amateur," she said. "This was really a fluke."
Andrew had elected to be an organ donor when he got his driver's license, and his parents gave their consent at the hospital, needed because he was underage. His organs were donated to four individuals, including a 17-year-old boy.
Andrew's mother said she and her husband haven't made any moves to meet the recipients, but she would like to do that someday.
"It just helped us feel more proud about our son," she said of his organ donation.
Andrew was an "A" student and a hard worker, earning enough money by caddying golf, refereeing hockey and more to purchase his first car 11 days after he got his license in February. He planned to study business at the University of Michigan and hoped to get a scholarship for golf or water polo, his mother said.
He also was a kind person who would have been a great boyfriend and husband -- she could tell from a note she found on his phone, she said -- and who already was saving some of his childhood books for his future children.
Family friend Heather Sharbaugh is among those who are volunteering for the AndrewStrong Foundation, whose logo is the number 66, Andrew's hockey jersey number, with wings on each side. The response to the foundation so far has been great, and the hope is that even more donors will contribute funds or gifts for a raffle Oct. 16, Sharbaugh said. For more information, visit andrewstrong.org.
Andrew loved his family fiercely and was a great big brother to 14-year-old Zach, Sharbaugh said. Once, while playing a "get to know you" game, Andrew responded "my parents" to a question about whom he looked up to most, she said. "Family is very important to the Martons, and it definitely transferred to him."
The Martons are waiting to hold a Catholic Mass funeral and burial until Illinois enters the next phase of reopening under COVID-19 guidelines.
"We want Andrew to have the full ceremony he deserves," Marisa Marton said.
Meanwhile, Andrew's loved ones are coping as best they can, grieving in their own way.
"The foundation is wonderful. I really, really can't wait until we give our first donation to somebody," his mother said. "But the foundation does not replace my son."