For the first time in three months, friends and family of Stacy Peterson had something to celebrate.
About 200 people gathered at a Bolingbrook church to share their favorite stories and memories in recognition of the missing mother’s 24th birthday.
“This is a great day for us,” Peterson’s neighbor and best friend Sharon Bychowski said. “It’s very therapeutic for us to come together as friends and family because today we get tell everybody what she means to us.”
Nobody enjoyed a good birthday party like Stacy Peterson, those close to her said. Peterson regularly played hostess for others’ birthdays and, in general, liked finding reasons to throw a party.
“I know if she was here she’d be telling us we did this completely wrong,” Peterson’s step-sister Kerry Simmons said.
Peterson’s aunt Candace Aikin flew all the way from southern California to attend the birthday party. She recalled Peterson’s last birthday, which they spent together in California, her vivacity for life and her belief that she will one day be reunited with her niece.
“I believe I’m going to see her again,” Aikin said. “I don’t know that it will be on this earth but I do believe I’ll see her again.”
Bychowski remembered Peterson’s love of cooking and their near daily habit of borrowing groceries.
“If your borrow her an avocado, it was good thing because an hour later she would come running back to you with an entire bowl of guacamole and chips.”
Susan Olsen, mother of missing Maple Park man Bradley Olsen was also on hand for the event, lending her support for Peterson’s family just hours after she and her family had held a private event in recognition of the one year anniversary of her son’s disappearance on Jan. 20, 2007.
“We’re just sticking together,” Olsen said. “We’re just here to support each other, which we need. We need all the love and prayers and support we can get.”
Bychowski and Simmons said the search for Stacy Peterson continues and volunteers are working hard to raise money to continue the effort as soon as the weather improves.
“Our lives will never be back to normal until we find Stacy and bring her home,” Simmons said. “Until we get the truth about what happened to her and bring the person who did this to her to justice.”
The birthday vigil came on the heels of last week’s announcement by Illinois State Police that Drew Peterson remains their number one suspect in his wife’s Oct. 28 disappearance and that new evidence has surfaced in the case.
Bolingbrook Police Chief Ray McGury, who attended the birthday vigil, declined to comment on the investigation but said he believes Stacy Peterson’s family will find the answers they are searching for.
“There’s no timetable but I’m confident there will be resolution. Based upon what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, I’m confident there will be some resolution down the road,” McGury said.
Peterson’s step-sister Kerry Simmons also succinctly dismissed claims by Drew Peterson that his wife was having an affair. Last week, his lawyer, Joel Brodsky released a racy text message sent to Stacy Peterson a month before she disappeared that he said proved Stacy Peterson was having an affair.
“We’re not giving any merit to it,” Simmons said.
State police have also dismissed claims that Peterson ran off with another man.
Also Sunday, Bychowski released the details of a March 2 fundraiser that will help pay for renewed search efforts when weather allows.
The fundraiser will be held from 1 to 9 p.m. at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115 St., in Merrionette Park. The event will include two stages of entertainment, a silent auction and buffet. Tickets may be purchased at the door or at a discounted rate at http://www.groovetickets.com or by calling 1-877-71GROOVE. For more information visit http://www.findstacypeterson.com.