Community, family remembers lost Vancleave teen

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - It's homecoming week at Vancleave High, and among the festive decorated walls lie two memorials.  They honor 16-year-old Chris Driebergen, a junior soccer player whose life was cut short by a car accident Friday night.

"Everybody loves him," Shelbie Hudson said.  "He makes everybody happy. Smile, laugh"

Nikki Marshall added, "There was never a sad moment around Chris."

Notes written by students on the wall show many people agreed. Chris' soccer coach, Bob Lambes, said the soccer team will miss him.

"Chris was sweet he had a sweet personality and the people that knew him really loved him," Lambes said.  "And he cared about people.  He was really intelligent.  And he used those things to have an impact on people's lives."

At Chris' home in Vancleave, his mom Kim, sister Ashton and father Billy rely on faith, community and each other for comfort.

"You realize wow, we're that family," Kim said.  "That family that lost a child.  And you don't ever see yourself being that family."

They take comfort in memories of their son, the avid hockey fan and free thinker with an infectious smile and willing spirit, who volunteered his time any way he could.  That included participating in beach cleanups, numerous mission trips, volunteering with his church, cutting his hair and donating it to a local charity, or even just helping a friend.

"He was always the first," Kim said.  "When people ask for help, he was always the first to say, 'What do you want me to do? Point me in the direction.'"

Though he would help anyone, his family said his allegiance to the soccer team was unwavering.  That's why they're asking people to donate to the soccer team in lieu of flowers.

"For him it wasn't win or lose, it was the brotherhood of the team."

Chris' parents said he packed every year of his life with experience, adventure, and happiness.

"His life was short in years, but it was a full life," Chris' mother said. "Because he did everything that he wanted to do.  In those 16 years, that boy lived more than people who live to be 100 years old."

Chris' family said they are determined to continue living through the tragedy.  They want to stay involved in the Vancleave High School soccer program.  They also plan on keeping their season tickets with the Mississippi Surge hockey team, including Chris' ticket.  They said Chris had been a long-time fan of the Mississippi Sea Wolves, and was excited about the new team's first season.

"We're heartbroken," Kim said.  "We're truly heartbroken.  But we know that his life is not over. His life goes on through us.  His life goes on in heaven.  We all have our special guardian angel now and he's looking out for us."

The Vancleave High School soccer team begins their season in November.  They plan to play one man short the first two minutes of the game, in memory of their lost teammate.

The funeral for Chris Driebergen is set for Tuesday at 1 p.m. at his church, St. John's Episcopal Church.

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