Adam Van't Hof died suddenly. The 18-year-old was horsing around with friends at a lake when their canoe flipped. The water was a chilly 56 degrees. He didn't survive.
But the memory of Adam has survived well beyond that terrible night 12 years ago, thanks to a small charity created after his death and the remarkable loyalty of his family and high school friends. Those friends from Minnetonka High School show up year after year to an annual "Truckin' with Adam'' benefit concert that takes place the last weekend of June.
"It's a real testament to their loyalty that these kids have stayed with it so long,'' said Gene Van't Hof, Adam's dad. "It is beyond our hopes or dreams. At first we thought, 'If we can just get to five years.' Then it was 10 years."
"Now it's become a ritual of the summer,'' he said. "And there are little toddlers running around, too.''
Those high school pals, now 30 years old, do more than rock to the music, he said. Adam's buddy Nic Titze designed the charity's website and T-shirts. Friends Adam Terzich, John Maschoff and Paul Droegemueller perform music, including songs from Adam's wake such as the Beatle's classic "Here Comes the Sun.''
And a friendship has formed between father and friends. "I'm able to see Adam in them,'' Van't Hof said, "And they're able to see Adam in me.''
Adam's 1988 Ford Ranger pickup truck, which he drove to school, is parked outside the concert, too.
The concert raises about $3,000 a year for the Van't Hof Memorial Fund, which has donated to groups such as the Special Olympics, Loaves and Fishes and The Bridge for Youth. It also funds at least two soccer scholarships each year.
Staffing the concert ticket and T-shirt booths are Adam's mom, Becky Van't Hof, and friends. The Sunday event starts at 1 p.m. at the Bayside Grille in Excelsior, featuring country guitar player Dan Lund and the White Iron Band. Said Gene Van't Hof: "It's wonderful to see how it's evolved.''
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511