About 80 people sang, spoke and held out hope on Sunday night for the safe return of Loretta Saunders, the Saint Mary's University student who has not been seen in 10 days.

The candlelight vigil, held in Saunders' hometown of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, gave people the opportunity to show their support for the Saunders family.

loretta saunders

Loretta Saunders, 26, was reported missing on Monday. She was last seen Thursday evening and was in contact with friends online Friday afternoon. (Halifax Regional Police)

Her long-time friend Jill Elson described Saunders, 26, as a woman of many strengths who has overcome numerous obstacles in her life.

"Loretta is one of the strongest, most resilient people I know," Elson told the vigil.

"I hope that the momentum of the search for her does not stop until she is found, safe and sound."

Saunders, an Inuk who was studying in Halifax, has not been seen since Feb. 13. A day later, her boyfriend received a text purportedly from Saunders, asking for her mother's maiden name. Her car was later found near Windsor, Ont.

Elson told the vigil that she is confident that her friend will graduate as planned this spring, and that she will complete her research on murdered and missing aboriginal women.

"She is alive, I know she's alive," Elson told CBC News. "We can feel it. She's going to come home."

Jennifer Hefler-Elson, whose children grew up with Saunders, said the case has been taking a toll on her hometown.


"It really tugs at your heart," she said. "And you can't imagine. You can't imagine it. So, to me, we have to do whatever we can to bring her home."

Saunders' Toyota Celica was found in a driveway of a home in Harrow, Ont. Two people - Blake Leggette, 25, and Victoria Henneberry, 28 - have been charged with being in possession of a stolen vehicle.