FRUITLAND — It’s been two weeks since a 5-year-old went missing in Fruitland and people throughout the Western Treasure Valley are stepping up in huge ways to offer support — both emotional and financial — for the family.
Michael “Monkey” Joseph Vaughan went missing from the area near his home the evening of July 27.
Since then, people have stepped up in myriad ways to show support and its worth noting that many of the people offering help do not personally know the family, they just want to help someone in their community.
This includes people who have set up prayer circles, motorcycle rides and fundraisers and who have replaced their porch lights with blue ones in hopes of helping Michael find his way home.
Impromptu prayer circle becomes weekly event
The first day after Michael went missing, a prayer circle was set up. Someone was so moved by that initial effort that they have continued the event weekly.
Nelacey Porter, who just moved to Fruitland from Ontario in June, was asked by his friend, Klara Holscher, of Fruitland, if he would help by praying at the gathering. Porter and Marlena Gutierrez, of Ontario, whom he says is “the Prayer Queen,” set out on social media to let people know they would be gathering in a few hours. Porter said about 30 to 40 people showed up in that time span. The three know each other from Christian Life Fellowship.
Porter said Holscher got the idea because in New York, while raising cattle, if a cow got loose they would pray for it and it would always return.
“So she had this idea of let’s get together and pray for Michael’s return,” Porter said.
“It was really nice to see so many people to come out. I wasn’t sure who would be there, but knew God would put the right people there that needed to be.”
Jennifer Jean Hanna has continued those prayerful gatherings every Wednesday evening at the City Park. She said she believes that praying can being comfort to those worried for Monkey.
“I also pray for his family to have their burdens lessened while dealing with this tragedy and hope they can still find pieces of joy within themselves soon,” she said. “We also pray for this community, the amazing spirit that has moved all these people into action to find him. We pray to spread the message of bring Monkey home. He needs to come home.”
A show of support
Brandon and Brooke Curtiss have set up the ‘Michael Vaughan Fruitland Community Missing Child Search’ Facebook page, after dissatisfaction with the rumor and attacks that had been posted on a national page.
“It’s unfortunate that many people have no common sense between reality and Facebook-land,” Brooke Curtis said, admonishing those who leave comments attacking the parents.
“I’m not saying they are guilty or innocent. I’m saying there is no evidence. Why attack? It makes it 10 times harder when we have no idea what was going on.”
Like those who started the prayer circle, the Curtiss’ don’t personally know Michael’s parents, but they live about a mile away.
“We’re just people in a community who care,” she said. “God forbid it was one of our kids.”
The Curtiss’ also set up a motorcycle ride as another way to boost spirits for the parents.
“We just really wanted to find some way to show the family that they have people supporting them in their community, and to ignore the rumor mill running around. We are working diligently is assisting in the search,” she said.
Despite the fact the ride took place Aug.4, the same time as the national rally in Sturgis, there were 50 to 55 motorcyles who turned out. They met at the Chevron, rode to the prayer circle, which starts at 7:30 p.m. each night, took part in that, then rode by Michael’s home but did not stop. She said the family did happen to be sitting outside to watch “and that was good for all of us to see.”
Another helping hand came from a quilter from Midvale, who wished not to be named for the article. Her donation was raffled off at the Washington County Fair’s livestock sale and it raised more than $7,000, according to Washington County Fair Board manager Chris Braun. She said the money will go to the Payette Fire Department to aid in the search.
Another ride coming
Another motorcycle ride has been set up for Aug. 21; however, this one will be a benefit ride. According to information received from Payette City Councilor Lori Steiniker, the Treasure Valley Long Riders are holding that fundraiser ride.
It will begin in Caldwell at Sportsman’s Hideout and ends at Legend’s in Weiser where dinner, music and a live and silent auction will be available.
Those who don’t ride a motorcycle can participate by following the procession in their cars.
For information about the ride, contact Carlos Ribera (208) 936-5004 or Terrie Cathcart-Shurte (208) 405-5603. For information on how to donate to the live or silent auction, contact Cheryl Farley (208) 740-9998.
Another person who wants to help raise funds for the family is Lucinda Day, owner of Big Sky Sportswear Inc. in Fruitland. She is doing this by selling shirts for $20 to $23. They feature a silhouette of Michael’s image sandwiched between his name and “#bringmonkeyhome.”
Day is paying for 100% of the first 48 shirts sold, including all of the Paypal fees for ordering. After that, she will only keep $5 to $7 to help defray the cost, giving the remainder to the family. The shirts are available at shopbigsky.net through a link on Big Sky’s website.
She said while she doesn’t know the family, it doesn’t matter to her.
“I have a 5-year-old grandson. This is a community and we need to stick together when things happen,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if we know them or not.”
Day said this was just one way to help, and mentioned there was also an account set up for the Vaughan Family at Washington Federal Bank in Payette.
A spokeswoman at Washington Federal said that anybody could go to any branch to make a donation under the account which was set up by the parents, and ask for it to be put under Tyler Vaughan or Brandi Thebo.
Ashley May, a hair stylist who lives in Michael’s neighborhood also doesn’t know his family, but she wanted to do something to help. Having organized fundraisers in the past, she set out initially wanting to just do a day of haircuts and donate 100% of the money to the family. But when she started reaching out to businesses about the idea and how to possibly expand, “the response was overwhelming.”
As such, a raffle was born, and more than 50 donations have been received for it. The raffle and day of haircuts will take place on Monday, Aug. 16 at Platinum Studio in Fruitland. While May is booked that day, the owner will be on site for walk-in clients. The event will begin at about 9 a.m. and go til about 7 p.m. that night with raffles happening throughout the day.
May’s son, Camden Collins, 13, who also wants to help out has been working on drawings that he plans to sell at the event.
“He has been wanting to get involved and help out” May said, adding that she and her son had joined the community search parties that first night.
May also noted the blue lights throughout Fruitland and especially in Michael’s neighborhood. Saying she was out of town when the movement first started, when she drove back into down and down their road and saw the other houses with blue porch lights on, “I knew immediately what they were for.”
All of the proceeds from the event at the salon will go to the family she said. For more information about the raffle, or to purchase tickets, contact May at (208) 230-0358.
No new information to report on Michael
There currently is no new information to report from authorities. An official at Crime Stoppers did confirm that among the numerous tips they receive per day, some recently had come in about Michael, which were forwarded to Fruitland Police Department.
Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff, in an email reply regarding whether any updates were available, told the newspaper on Monday morning, “I will be posting updates to our Facebook page shortly and then throughout the week.” This would include any information about any significant developments in the case, he said.
As of press time at 9:45 a.m. this morning, updated information had not yet been posted on the police department’s page.
For more information, including how to provide tips, visit https://bit.ly/HelpFindMichael.
Michael was last seen in the area of SW 9th St. and South Arizona Avenue in Fruitland at about 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. on July 27. He was wearing a light blue Minecraft T-shirt, dark blue or black boxer briefs with a green stripe and child’s size 11, blue flip flops. He is 3-foot-7-inches tall, 50 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes.