A young family and church congregation are in mourning after Ben Van Houten, deacon of Calvary Baptist Church in Holland, Mich., and father of the state's first surviving group of sextuplets died last Wednesday after suffering a heart attack while playing with his children.
Van Houten's father-in-law, Calvin Reimink, explained in a Michigan Live report that the beloved deacon, who also served as the leader for a Christian youth program called AWANA, had just set up a trampoline in his backyard and began playing with his children when he suffered the heart attack.
"He was always spending time with the kids," said Reimink.
Louie Schaap, an acquaintance and parishioner of the 39-year-old deacon, told Wood TV8 that he spoke with him last Sunday and commented that he was looking forward to having a great summer.
"He said, 'I'm really glad that today is a beautiful day,'" said Schaap. "He says, 'I'm really looking forward to a real good summer where we can go picnicking and all that stuff.'"
Houten, who is expected to be buried Monday, leaves behind his wife, Amy, along with the sextuplets who are now 10 years old, and a 7-year-old daughter, Drew. Two of the sextuplets were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and need special care.
The church has committed to helping the family and a youcaring campaign is seeking to raise $10,000 to assist Houten's wife in caring for the children.
"You can tell by the pictures that this was a family that embraced what it meant to love one another unconditionally. Despite the obstacles, Ben and Amy kept their family together and created many memories that will last a lifetime," noted a message from the campaign.
"As anybody with kids will tell you, just one child is enough to keep you on your toes. Ben and Amy had seven children altogether. Seven children who will now have to go through life without the guidance, love and support that a father is supposed to give to his family," it continued.