The media attention has disappeared and the police presence has been scaled back, but the dozens of volunteers searching for Kaden Young say they’ll keep up their efforts until they’re able to reunite the boy with his family.
It’s been three weeks since Young was swept out of his mother’s grip and into the fast-flowing Grand River, which had already taken their vehicle.
The three year old’s mother was able to get to safety. The vehicle was eventually found downstream. There was no sign of the toddler.
Young’s disappearance prompted a massive, days-long police search of the river between the Waldemar area, where the vehicle entered the river, and the Belwood dam, where there is a grate that authorities believe Young could not have passed through.
Volunteers also took up the search – and their efforts have continued even as the spotlight has moved away from Amaranth Township.
Richard Croft, one of the organizers of the volunteer effort, says 60 to 80 people are helping with the search on weekdays, and several hundred more joining up on weekends.
“We still need more,” he said Wednesday.
“All we’re trying to do is bring home a three-year-old child. That’s our goal here, and that’s our mission, and we will complete it.”
While many of the searchers come from nearby communities like Grand Valley, Orangeville, or even Guelph, Croft says Wednesday’s effort included people from as far away as Wawa. A crew from British Columbia is expected to show up to help on the weekend.
Compared to that, Lisa DePoorter‘s two-hour trips from Norwich may seem relatively manageable. After one week of making that drive, she found a place to stay in the area so she could keep helping the search team in any way possible – including by making food for them.
She says she’s never seen anything like the generosity of the people who have come together to aid Young’s family – or the determination they’re showing.
“It has restored my faith in humanity,” she said.
“We will find him, and we will bring him home for the family.”
The stretch of the river where Young is believed to be is about 13 kilometres long. Searchers have been dividing up territory and recording their results to ensure no inch of the riverbank is missed.
Wednesday marked the fourth day Kari Olsen was leading a team of searchers along the west side of a small section of the river just south of Waldemar.
An educational worker off the job this week for March Break, Olsen and her team were using ski poles and hockey sticks to keep their balance on the uneven terrain around the water. On Wednesday, they were using gardening tools to pull apart piles of wood that had washed ashore.
“Coming out here … makes me feel like I can do something,” she said.
Young’s mother, who hasn’t spoken publicly about the events of Feb. 21, issued a statement to CTV News Wednesday say that she and her family were “very, very, very appreciative” of the continuing support they have been receiving.
“She’s happy that everybody is so focused on bringing Kaden home,” Croft said.
With reporting by Nicole Lampa