By Danya Hooker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bolingbrook, IL –
Friends and family of Stacy Peterson are inviting the public to attend an informational meeting Wednesday, April 9, for those interested in volunteering.
Bolingbrook Village Clerk Carol Penning, who is coordinating a May 10 fund raiser, said the group is looking for search volunteers and people interested in helping to plan, donate to or staff the fund raiser. All proceeds will go toward search efforts to find the missing Bolingbrook mom.
“I feel like I have to do something,” said Penning, a close friend of Peterson’s. “This is a good way to help and do something that would maybe bring her home and we could give her a proper burial.”
Penning and Peterson 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 Penning said she no longer believes the young mother will be found alive, she does feel a renewed sense of hope of finding closure now that search efforts are again underway.
“I got myself so worked up around Christmas time because that’s when I really wanted to get her back,” Penning said. “Now I feel there’s a sense of hope.”
The fund raiser will be held at Ditka’s Sports Dome, 730 N. Route 53, in Bolingbrook, from 5 to 9 p.m. May 10, and will include family-oriented activities, such as putting contests, target contests, bean bag tournaments, and auctions. Tickets are available online at www.groovetickets.com.
|If you go
What: Meeting about upcoming searches and fund raiser
Penning said the decision to hold the event, which has been dubbed a “fun raiser,” the day before Mother’s Day was no accident.
“We believe in our hearts that (Stacy Peterson) would not have left her children,” Penning said. “Mother’s Day is a time to honor mother’s and we wanted to honor Stacy by having this event.”
Event organizers hope to raise at least as much money as a March 2 event in Merrionnette Park.
That event raised more than $11,000 for search efforts, according to Friends of Stacy Peterson board member Sharon Bychowski.
But Bychowski, Peterson’s neighbor and best friend, said those funds may not last long. A single day’s search, if it includes boats and helicopters, can cost up to $1,000 per day, Bychowski said.
“You can see how fast that money is going to go,” she said.
Sean Henady, founder of Aerial Image Corp., said the group has reimbursed him for more than $1,200 worth of rental and fuel expenses incurred last year. Henady donates his company’s time and equipment to take aerial images of areas identified by Illinois State Police. But he occasionally rents helicopters and planes from local airports.
Rentals for Peterson’s search have cost between $50 and $250 per hour, said Henady, whose group has helped in more than a dozen missing persons cases.
Aerial Image Corp. took several thousand images last year before winter weather forced the family to halt searches. Both Illinois State Police and private searches have used the images to help coordinate search efforts and to attempt to locate larger objects that could be possible evidence.
Bychowski said the group has also reimbursed boat operators for fuel and privately-owned cadaver dog groups for their services.
To help organize funds raised, Bychowski said Friends of Stacy Peterson applied for non-profit status in January. The group has received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service confirming receipt of the application but has not received an approval or denial, she said.
Attempts to reach IRS officials to verify the application’s status were unsuccessful Tuesday but the IRS Web site says there is a backlog of applications, which is causing delays in processing.
Bychowski said the group, with the help of an accountant, has also begun keeping inventory of donations, Stacy Peterson T-shirts, signs and other items. The group will also begin listing quarterly reports on http://www.FindStacyPeterson.com next quarter.
“We already sat down with an accountant before we spent a dime of that money,” Bychowski said. “There sure is a lot more to this than I ever thought there would be.”