After being asked not to help with the search efforts to find the bodies of a five-year-old boy and his grandparents, southern Albertans are finding new ways to help the family.
A silent auction fundraiser at the Ramada Inn and Suites Airdrie Hotel has 100 items to bid on, as well as vendors from all over southern Alberta.
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The funds will go to Rod and Jennifer O'Brien, who have stopped working since their son, Nathan O’Brien, and their parents, Alvin and Kathy Liknes, disappeared.
“We need to do something as a community to bind together and help them as much as we can,” said organizer Jaime McKay. “We couldn't imagine what would happen to our lives if something like this had happened in our lives with one of our loved ones.”
The fundraiser is one of several planned. Several thousand dollars has already been raised for the family, with the hope of raising thousands more. The goal is to cut a cheque in the coming weeks.
A family friend said the money raised will help them with the daily struggle.
At the Airdrie acreage, search and rescue crews continued to look for clues that could lead them to the missing and slain family.
Calgary police partnered with the National Research Council of Canada, using their plane to fly over the property. Divers scoured a pond on the property.
Some of this is territory already combed by police in past weeks, but police said earlier that “no stone would be left unturned.”
The property belongs to the parents of Douglas Garland, who has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in connection with the missing family.
Some of the volunteers searchers gathered for a BBQ Saturday afternoon. Police politely asked the civilian volunteers to stop searching earlier this week.
One of the searchers, Matthew Forseth, said they had set up a Facebook page, expecting 20 or 30 people to join, but the page grew to 2,000.
“Everybody who showed up is greatly touched by their loss and we tried to do what we could to help, and we'll continue to hope the best for them and hopefully the family gains closure as soon as possible,” said Forseth.
“It's disappointing that people in society can do something to a small innocent child and a family is left questioning every day, every minute, what happened, where is he, how can we get closure?”
Volunteer Laura Cameron said she hasn’t been able to sleep.
'I just felt like I had to come.' - Kathy Keys, volunteer searcher
“I have a five-year-old boy myself and I would never be able to stop looking for him and I would want others to help me look for him,” said Cameron.
“It's someone from our own neighbourhood that's being accused of doing this to this family and this is a great community and to have this dark light shed on Airdrie, this is not what Airdrie is about.”
Kathy Keys, who was vacationing in Calgary from Minnesota when news of the family's disappearance broke, also joined the search.
“I've been hearing since arriving in Canada, I just felt like I had to come,” said Keys. “I have a grandson and granddaughter that age and I just think it's horrific.”