Grief for a young North Vancouver athlete and coach who died far too soon has led to an outpouring of support from across the North Shore as well as a new scholarship fund in the local sailing community.
The family of Henrik Moberg-Parker created the HMP Excellence Foundation to honour the memory of the 18-year-old Vancouver College grad, a first-year student at UBC, who died suddenly on Feb. 5.
A celebration of life for Moberg-Parker held Feb. 21 at North Vancouver’s Handsworth Secondary was attended by approximately 1,200 people, and more than $40,000 has already been raised for the foundation, which will give out two annual grants to young sailors. Moberg-Parker was heavily involved in the local sailing community, competing nationally and internationally while also serving as a coach, volunteer and race official.
One of the foundation’s grants, co-sponsored by the Hollyburn Sailing Club, will go to a new sailor joining the Hollyburn race team. The other will be by nomination, open to members of the sailing community throughout B.C., and will be awarded to someone who is a positive role model in the sailing community through racing, coaching, volunteering and other work in the sport. The foundation is hoping to get to $50,000 in funds raised, at which point they will cut off donations and have enough money to keep the fund running indefinitely with administrative help from the West Vancouver Foundation.
“We want to give kids similar to him the encouragement to keep going with some financial support, as well as someone new starting who can benefit from the incredible experiences that he had in sailing,” said Henrik’s mother Tine Moberg-Parker, herself a high-level sailing coach and athlete who competed for Canada at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Henrik’s death came as a shock to all who knew him, and there are some questions surrounding it that will likely never be answered. Tine said she spoke to her son the night of his death as he was studying for midterms. Early the next morning he was found dead near Lions Gate Bridge.
In between those times Henrik was arrested by University RCMP, released without charge and then driven back to his UBC residence by police. Two hours later, a security guard found his body on the northern shore of Burrard Inlet, under the bridge.
The province’s Independent Investigations Office, tasked with investigating any time someone dies or faces serious harm in their interactions with police in B.C., cleared police of any wrongdoing. When contacted by the North Shore News, a spokesman for University RCMP declined to comment further on the department’s interaction with Moberg-Parker, referring back to the IIO’s findings.
Henrik’s mother said she believes Henrik did nothing wrong but in a panicked state chose to end his life. “All we know is that none of this was his fault,” she said. “He just panicked.”
Descriptions of Henrik from his family and the speakers at his celebration of life, an event which filled the floor and bleachers at Handsworth’s main gym, paint a picture of a young man who was talented, kind, caring and loved to have fun. Thirty speakers came to the podium during the celebration of life, ranging from his soccer and sailing coaches to teammates, classmates, family members and friends. Even a few young sailors, much too small to reach the podium, came up to speak about how coach Henrik helped them navigate troubled waters as he introduced them to the sport.
“We have two kids at the yacht club who would text me every Tuesday and say ‘Is Henrik coming to sailing today?’” said Tine, who is heavily involved with West Vancouver’s Hollyburn Sailing Club. “If the answer is no, they wouldn’t come. If the answer is yes, they were there.”
Henrik was known around the sailing circuit for being great at skipping rocks, a pastime he passed on to young sailors across the province, said Tine.
“We go to this one regatta in Kelowna every year, it’s kind of a beachy, rocky area, and there would be Henrik, at age 18, and 10 kids between three and eight, and he would teach them how to skip rocks.”
Some of the youngsters who spoke at his celebration of life talked about those rock-skipping lessons.
“He always gave me the best of the best rocks – and those good rocks, I usually wasted,” said one young boy, drawing a laugh from the crowd.
Friends described a young man who was adept at chess, soccer, sailing and hockey, a friend who loved to laugh and tease, but was always ready to stand up for those in need. He was involved in a volunteer tutoring and mentoring program at Vancouver College, helping students with dyslexia and autism.
“Henrik’s specialty was caring for the ones that didn’t have it easy,” said Tine.
The Moberg-Parker family, including father Dave and younger brother Mattias, have been buoyed by the support they have received from the community, said Tine.
“Our focus is getting through this with support from the community. We’ve had incredible support from friends and family,” she said, adding that as a family they have always striven to give of themselves to the community, and they are now getting that support back. “Now it’s flipped, people are giving back and it’s incredible the support we’re getting. Always try to give, because you never know when you need to get.”
The family also had a message for anyone in distress or feeling hopeless.
“Nothing is ever so bad that it is worth dying for,” said Tine. “Make sure that kids and parents communicate that message.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call one of the following crisis hotlines, which are staffed around the clock:
Vancouver Coastal Regional Line 604-872-3311
310-Mental Health Support (310-6789).