Families of missing raise awareness

BOLINGBROOK Just after 6 p.m. Wednesday, 40 people gathered in Whistler Park in Bolingbrook and let balloons go in honor of Rachel, the Bolingbrook teen who went missing 12 years ago.

Although the families have been working and trying to keep the cases in the headlines, they say they welcome help from an out-of-state organization that has come trying to get the word out about missing persons.

It was an emotional first meeting between two women who have each been fighting for similar causes. One woman has been tirelessly searching for her nieces, missing seven years. And another woman was helping keep missing persons cases in the public eye.

"To family members it's a never-ending pain and all missing children deserve to be found," said Shelia Bradley-Smith, aunt of missing young sister Diamond and Tionda Bradley.

Monica Caison is with the Cue Center for Missing Persons, a group out of North Carolina that organizes a nationwide tour every summer to help raise awareness about cases in towns where their help is requested.

"We hope in some ways we can help the cases come back to light and that tips or leads can be called in or searches conducted to bring resolution to the cases," Caison said.

They lined up more than one stop in the Chicago area, traveling to Bolingbrook to highlight the case of Rachel Mellon, who was 13 when she disappeared in 1996.

"It makes it somehow some good coming out of her life," said Jeff Skemp, Rachel Mellon's father.

The family of Stacy Peterson, who disappeared 10 months ago, was also present.

There was also an effort to prevent any future missing persons cases. Several organizations united to organize a drive to fingerprint children on what has been proclaimed Abduction Prevention Day.

"We're concerned with losing a child. In this day and age, there's a lot of weird people out there, and we hope nothing ever happens," said Steve Pecina, who had his son fingerprinted.

The Cue Center has one more stop in Illinois Thursday before it continues its 17-city tour. They will be in Maple Park, Illinois, to highlight the case of Bradley Olson, the 28-year-old who went missing in January 2007. They will be joined by the families of two other local, missing men.

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