FRUITLAND — Five months ago, 5-year-old Michael Joseph “Monkey” Vaughan disappeared from his Fruitland home. On Friday, dozens of residents gathered in Fruitland Community Park to hold a candlelight vigil for him as part of their Christmas Eve.

Prayers were given by Chad Ross from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Payette. Many of those present brought candles of their own to illuminate the gathering. Attendees took part in singing “Silent Night,” which reflected the mood of the gathering. 

Brandi Neal, Michael’s mother, spoke briefly at the event.

“Michael, as we light these candles tonight, so many people have come here to show you we will never give up. We will never give up hope, my love,” she said. “We are here to help light your way home. Monkey, you are beyond missed, baby. You are so loved and cherished by your family, by your community, and by so many people around Fruitland.”

The vigil was organized on Facebook, through the “Michael Vaughan Fruitland Community Missing Child Search” page. Lana Westbrook, who helps run the page, spoke to the newspaper following the event.

There were some posts about it, an online candlelight vigil … at noon on Christmas. Multiple people in the group [had] commented and said, ‘Hey, why don’t we do one in person?’ And it just … came together in the comments,” said Westbrook. “I helped, because I do marketing and [public relations] professionally. So I just stepped up and helped with some media contacts and helping put things together for them.”

Westbrook works remotely for a Digital Studio based in Los Angeles.

“I had never met the family until tonight,” she added. “The admin of the group and other people are very actively involved.”

Television crews from KTVB and KBOI were also present for the vigil.

Fruitland Police and multiple agencies continue their search for Michael, which include a forested area near Weiser as reported earlier this week.

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