By Danya Hooker
Preparation for ground searches for Stacy Peterson, organized by her friends and family, are scheduled to begin again this weekend.
Volunteers had called off most of their searches by December when heavy snow and frigid temperatures made ground searches almost impossible. Meanwhile, police said they have continued searching for Peterson throughout the winter as information came in pointing them to certain areas, Illinois State Police Sgt. Thomas Burek said.
“We’ve really never taken a break from the search aspect during the winter,” Burek said.
Although Burek declined to comment on specific areas police have searched, he confirmed they have not searched areas of water since December and that the investigation is continuing at full force with a team dedicated to searches.
“Our search efforts are very much driven by what’s uncovered by the investigation,” Burek said. “Things are very much full steam ahead.”
Peterson’s friend Roy Taylor, the lead search coordinator for family-led searches, said he plans to scout several areas this weekend in preparation for searches in the near future. Taylor said he is waiting for advice from Illinois State Police before choosing which areas to scout.
In the meantime, Taylor encouraged residents who live near Peterson to search public areas and their own property.
“Anyone who feels like they would like to get out and start doing something — walking local state parks — that would be a great help,” Taylor said.
Taylor has been in contact with Illinois State Police and said he expects to know when and where official searches can begin by next week.
The upcoming searches will be the first since the group Friends of Stacy Peterson held a fund raiser March 2 in Merrionette Park. The event raised more than $11,000 to go toward the family’s search efforts, according to Peterson’s neighbor and close friend Sharon Bychowski.
Peterson’s friends, headed by Bolingbrook village clerk Carol Penning, are in the beginning stages of planning another fund raiser May 17 at Ditka Dome in Bolingbrook.
“The dilemma was of course (the last event) wasn’t hometown and I wanted to do something hometown,” Penning said.
Peterson and Penning became close six years ago when Peterson, then 17, briefly worked for the village of Bolingbrook. The two regularly kept in contact up until Peterson’s Oct. 28 disappearance.
“She was like a daughter to me,” Penning said.
Although the group Friends of Stacy Peterson will be focusing their efforts on resuming searches rather than planning this event, Bychowski said the event’s organizers have the group’s blessing. All proceeds will go toward continued search efforts, which can cost up to $1,000 per day for lodging, fuel and food.
“We’re not giving up hope that we can recover her body,” Penning said.
Anyone interested in helping to plan the May 17 fundraiser can call Penning at (630) 300-4207.
Organizers of Friends of Stacy Peterson, which has applied for nonprofit status, are also looking for a printing business that is willing to provide free or low-cost signs and posters for the group, Bychowski said.
The signs read “Where’s Stacy” and gives the contact information for the state police and the www.findstacypeterson.com Web site.