Oshkosh family creates scholarships
in son's memory
Adam Gundlach LifeTeen Scholarship to assist Catholic youth
By Jaye Alderson
OSHKOSH -- In his 16 years of life, Adam D. Gundlach had a profound impact on his community, his parish - St. Raphael the Archangel - and on the many people with whom he interacted on a daily basis.
According to friends, he exemplified everything positive about good, Christian youths today. He was an active member of the parish's LifeTeen program, a volunteer at Mercy Medical Center, a high academic scholar, a member of the Oshkosh West High School boys swim team and tennis team, and a member of the Webfooters Waterski Team of Fremont.
So when Adam died during a freak waterskiing accident in July 2004, many people were affected. Memorial funds poured in to his parents, David and Marcie Gundlach of Oshkosh. They wanted to use the money to make a difference in the lives of Christian youths, just as Adam had.
"Adam was a very active teenager," Marcie Gundlach said. "He very much loved life. Anything with water was a passion of his, anything active, outdoors. One of his passions was LifeTeen."
The family used the money to set up funds through the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation which provides scholarships and other opportunities to youths interested in the same pursuits as Adam. One offering funded primarily through donations from neighbors is a new portrait of Jesus Christ and teenagers that was donated to St. Raphael on May 11.
A major focus is providing scholarships through the Adam D. Gundlach St. Raphael LifeTeen Scholarship. Recipients are high school seniors involved in the St. Raphael LifeTeen program and other extracurricular activities. The scholarships help fund education at a college, university or technical school.
Other efforts include Webfooters scholarships and the Adam Gundlach Memorial Swim Meet.
"We've had to decide how to tell the best story of Adam," Marcie Gundlach said. "We tailored the scholarships to meet needs that we feel best match who match Adam was and what he offered to us."
The scholarships also recognize teens in the community with positive attributes.
"We feel very passionate about teenagers in general," said Gundlach. "I think Adam was an example of a strong academic, spiritual and community-involved teen. I think that having other teenagers and high school students living the life that he led, he would be very proud of those students."
Sarah Gavin, a youth minister at St. Raphael, agrees.
"Adam Gundlach was an outstanding student, athlete, member of the community and a big participant on our LifeTeen," Gavin said. "Week after week, he was at just about every life night as well as Mass every week.
"He was just an example of strong Christian faith for other teenage boys. Other teen boys might not be as proud to show their faith, but he had no problem showing that that was a priority in his life. Adam was also very kind, always generous and very polite."
She said that when Adam died, it affected the entire parish.
"Knowing we're honoring Adam and how important his faith was is very big in the parish," she said.
She said having the scholarship available to LifeTeen students is "huge" because the youth ministry and religious education programs are priorities in the parish.
"The teenagers are not the future of the church - the teenagers are our church, just as much as the adults are. It's important for them to experience the faith through personal relationships with Jesus and also learn about the church," she said.
To illustrate this commitment to teens and to make a lasting contribution to LifeTeen in Adam's memory, the Gundlach family commissioned a painting to hang near the parish's LifeTeen area.
The painting, titled "I Am Here," was created by Oshkosh artist Lisa Dorschner, a former member of St. Raphael. It depicts Jesus and teenagers interacting in an outdoor setting near the water that Adam loved.
The teens in the painting include Adam's younger brother, Matthew; three cousins born in 1988 (the same year as Adam's birth), and four of Adam's close friends.
"We wanted to create a memory of the way Adam lived his life," Marcie Gundlach said. "They are teens as teens present themselves. We let them do their thing and act like teenagers."
Adam's father, David Gundlach, thinks honoring Adam's memory in the ways that they do are particularly meaningful.
"To try to make sense of any situation like this is difficult," he said. "To do something positive in his memory that supports and encourages the things that he stood for makes it easier. It gives it a bit more meaning. It makes him seem a whole lot closer because we're able to support the teens and those things that meant so much to him."
He especially appreciates the LifeTeen program.
"Talk about making Catholicism relevant to young people," he said. "To me, that's where it's at. They are the church. LifeTeen is an investment in the Catholic Church."