Family, friends of missing South Elgin teen hold vigil, pray for her safe return
Fiona Galvin at first wasn't too keen on holding a candlelight vigil to mark the six months since her daughter's disappearance because she knew it would be an emotionally draining experience capping an unfathomably difficult time.
But she also knows it's important to keep reminding people that Kianna is out there, somewhere, and that her family misses her and wants her to come home to South Elgin, she said.
"I do want to keep it alive and in people's heads that yes, she is still missing," Fiona Galvin said. "Someone must know something, so call police if you see her or see anything."
Kianna vanished May 6 after telling her younger sister Miah that she was walking to nearby Jim Hansen Park. Her social media accounts have stayed silent, her friends haven't heard from her, and nothing has come from leads and tips -- numerous at first, dwindling as of late -- received by South Elgin police.
Still, Fiona Galvin isn't giving up hope that her daughter will return home.
"Hopefully the next (gathering) we have will be her 'Welcome Home' party," she said. "That's what I'm praying and hoping for."
A few dozen people attended the vigil Sunday evening at Jim Hansen Park, including South Elgin resident Frank Tripoli, a family friend who runs a "Come home Kianna" Facebook page.
"Any time in our community something happens, we all want to band together," he said. "Something like this is just a shock, so we try and do everything we can."
Several attendees, including South Elgin resident Danae Molitor, admitted they've never met Kianna or the Galvin family. They have simply followed the case and want to help.
"My heart just goes out to (Kianna's) mom," said Molitor, who has put up pink ribbons throughout the neighborhood to raise awareness of Kianna's disappearance. "I have two teenage daughters, so it really hit home to me."
Groups of friends, family members and neighbors -- some wearing "Come home, Kianna" shirts -- raised their candles toward the sky, cried on one another's shoulders and shared tearful wishes for Kianna's safe return.
Expressing feelings of grief and heartache, family friend Carolyn Cynowa urged the crowd to keep Kianna and her family at the forefront of their minds. The Rev. George Birungyi, a chaplain at Presence St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin, led the group in prayer to ask for strength and guidance.
"Kianna, wherever you are, come home," he said, candle raised toward the sky. "We miss you. We love you. We want you home soon."
South Elgin police have said that, while there is no concrete evidence, they suspect Kianna has not been gone willingly. The family has a GoFundMe page that has raised $445 for a reward for tips leading to Kianna's whereabouts.
The U.S. Marshals Service is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to put up one or two billboards with Kianna's photo in the Elgin and Chicago areas, one of them likely along Interstate 90, said Belkis Sandoval, public information officer for the U.S. Marshals Service, Northern District of Illinois. The agency has been assisting South Elgin police with the investigation.
"We are currently really actively working this," Sandoval said. "This is a newly established area for the U.S. Marshals Service, and this is our main case."
Meanwhile, Fiona Galvin, who works in the kitchen at Wasco Elementary School, said she's focusing on getting through her days at work and taking care of her younger daughter Miah, a sophomore and varsity basketball player at South Elgin High School.
She routinely posts fliers all over town and makes sure pink ribbons in Kianna's remembrance are still hanging. She posts on Facebook and has talked to psychics.
It's all been very hard on Miah, her mother said. "She's is a tough kid, but it's pretty emotional for her," she said. "She doesn't like to talk about it a lot. Now that basketball is coming up, she is missing the pep talks that she and her sister would have in the bathroom."
The family quietly celebrated Kianna's 18th birthday July 16 without her. A frozen birthday cake waits in the freezer, along with her untouched bedroom.
"It's really hard for me to go in (her bedroom) without having a breakdown," Fiona Galvin said. "I prefer to leave it the way she left it. When we find her and she's safe coming home, I will go in there."
Anyone with information is asked to contact South Elgin police at (847) 741-2151.