Remembering Riley Hoeksema: Parents thankful for church, community support

Posted at 5:46 PM, Jun 23, 2016

HOLLAND, Mich. -- The parents of the Holland teen found dead in Lake Michigan say that while this is an incredibly difficult time in their lives, they find peace knowing their son died doing what he loved.

Riley Hoeksema, 16, died after his boat capsized Sunday night while he was out with a friend.

Riley Hoeksema, from Facebook

Riley Hoeksema, from Facebook

His parents, Matt and Kelli Hoeksema, say they've received an overwhelming amount of love and support from their church and community.

"We know and believe that Riley is happy," Matt said. "Riley is filled with joy.  It is us that are sad, it is us that are angry and sometimes we get caught up in us. If we can remember where Riley is in heaven and his happiness and embrace the tremendous love and support that we have from the community we live in and build on that and love each other without events like this bring it out of us."

Riley's parents say they're incredibly saddened by the loss of their son, and their family has a hole they will never fill.

"For those of you that didn't know Riley, he was just a great kid" said Kelli. "He was nice, he was sweet. Everyone loved him. On that day, he had a great Father's Day dinner with his dad and I will remember an amazing hug out of the blue from my son."

Riley's body was found Wednesday afternoon in Lake Michigan.  The small boat he was on belonged to his grandparents.   It capsized when the teen and his friend were making a sharp turn.

His friend was rescued, but Riley vanished in Lake Michigan after the boat capsized.

His family is holding a private visitation Thursday night at Christ Memorial Church before Riley's funeral Friday.

"We're going to remember Riley, tell stories about him and we are never going to forget him" said Kelli. "We know that he is now in heaven and he's in a better place. Someday, even though we miss him now, we're going to see him again and that brings us a lot of comfort."

"It was just going to be a quick out and see the sunset and come back in with his buddy and unbeknownst to anyone, it would be the last trip that Riley would make," said Pastor Jim Liske.

The family's pastor providing comfort along with the community during the family's time of grief.

"We had people over cleaning mom's house, they just wanted to do something" said Liske. "People taking care of the boat that was in the accident so grandpa and grandma don't have to deal with that, people sending food to the Coast Guard Station to make sure they're fed well, people walking the beach during the recovery, people that just decided they were going to go out and help."

The other teen on the boat when it capsized was very much involved in the recovery mission for his best friend Riley. He's going to be speaking at Riley's funeral on Friday at Christ Memorial Church along with two of their friends.