Family looking for missing daughter in Pacific Northwest gets boost from U.S. centre
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children now helping in search for Mekayla Bali, 18
A Saskatchewan family desperate to find their missing daughter, believed to be in the Pacific Northwest, is hopeful a new powerful resource involved in their search will finally help lead them to her.
The American National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC, has been disseminating information about 18-year-old Mekayla Bali, who was last seen in Yorkton, Sask., in April 2016.
Several tips have centred the search for her in Vancouver, B.C. Now tips have come in from Seattle and Portland.
Mekayla Bali, now 18, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/missing?src=hash">#missing</a> from <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Saskatchewan?src=hash">#Saskatchewan</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Canada?src=hash">#Canada</a> since 2016. Believed to be in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Seattle?src=hash">#Seattle</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Washington?src=hash">#Washington</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Portland?src=hash">#Portland</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Oregon?src=hash">#Oregon</a> areas. <a href="https://t.co/MzCRqPkIoZ">pic.twitter.com/MzCRqPkIoZ</a>—@MissingNW
"And so we're really, really fortunate that [NCMEC] partnered with us in the search up in that Northwest area," said Paula Bali, Mekayla's mom.
For more than three decades, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has helped find missing children across the U.S.
It was founded by John and Revé Walsh, whose six-year-old son Adam went missing in 1981 and was later found murdered.
Twitter is a powerful tool for helping others. This <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SundayMorning?src=hash">#SundayMorning</a>, visit <a href="https://t.co/A5nInVeTWR">https://t.co/A5nInVeTWR</a> & share a poster of a missing child. <a href="https://t.co/bIv3ZegjxT">pic.twitter.com/bIv3ZegjxT</a>—@MissingKids
The organization says it has helped find more than 243,000 missing children since its inception.
"I think they will be successful in finding [Mekayla]," wrote Brian West, the founder of the Facebook page Missing People of Canada.
His page, which lists information about missing persons from across Canada, went up in 2011. He says 39 people have been located since then due to others seeing the posts and contacting police with tips.
The power of social media in searches is something Paula Bali hopes will help, especially with the reach and resources NCMEC has.
In 2015, it received more than $31 million in government grants and contracts and close to $15 million in donations for its operating budget.
"There's really no resources out there for parents of missing children and so it's a struggle ... personally, financially," she said.
Bali, who is on leave from her job, has held numerous fundraising events to help pay for her daughter's search and counselling for her family to cope with the disappearance.
NCMEC has helped the family produce a video, shared widely online, that features family members talking about Mekayla and what she means to them.
"There's not a single day that goes by that I don't pray for you. We will find you and bring you home" - Mekayla Bali's family <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OurStory?src=hash">#OurStory</a> <a href="https://t.co/cUJHU4Llru">pic.twitter.com/cUJHU4Llru</a>—@MissingKids
Bali says she doesn't know how her daughter crossed the border, if she is in the U.S., since she has no passport.
"She obviously didn't cross in a legal way, right?" she said. "She would have been flagged at the border."
Paula Bali has said Mekayla wasn't troubled or into drugs and she believes the teen is being influenced by someone else.
"You can't have a stronger danger bell ringing than what's going on with her," she said.
She says she's prepared to search "for as long as it takes," but is also calling on all levels of governments in Canada to invest more in resources to find missing people.
"Things need to change for missing children," she said. "It's just not acceptable, the lack of resources that are out there right now."
In January 2013, the RCMP launched its CanadaMissing.ca website to help coordinate searches for missing people and identify remains.