Hundreds of people are spending their Easter long weekend searching for a missing boy from a small southern Ontario community who was swept away in the Grand River during a recent flood.
Searchers from several nearby communities have been congregating just outside Orangeville, Ont. every day for the last six weeks to walk alongside the river and search for the body of Kaden Young.
The three-year-old was in the family van in the early hours of Feb. 21 when the vehicle was swallowed up by the fast-moving river.
His mother managed to get the boy out of the van, but lost her grip in the strong current and he was swept downstream.
Volunteer leaders in the civilian search hoped that the Easter weekend would serve as an opportunity to help the community find Kaden.
Increased numbers help
Richard Croft, a local tow-truck driver who is co-ordinating the search effort, said that an average day could bring anywhere from 20 to 50 searchers, but around 200 people showed up on Good Friday alone.
Croft said around 100 people turned out to the search on Saturday, and he expected even more on Sunday.
The increased numbers help, Croft said, especially at a time when the transitioning weather makes conditions difficult.
"It's very tough out there no matter what. But with the warmer weather, the ground is getting softer, so it's getting slippery," said Croft, who said it was wet enough for the treads of searchers' boots to get filled with mud.
We go out there with high spirits. We come back not so high because our goal has not been accomplished.Richard Croft
"It's a slow process because we have to make sure we're safe ourselves."
Beyond the physical toll of searching week after week, Croft said that the search is taking an emotional toll on everyone involved as well.
"It's tough, it's very hard," said Croft.
"We go out there with high spirits. We come back not so high because our goal has not been accomplished. We know we're getting closer, we're just not quite there yet, but we know we'll get there."
Among the daily searchers, Croft says there's a group of around 20 people who have come out nearly every day since Kaden went missing to search for him.
Croft said that there is a plan in place that includes emotional support for when Kaden's body is actually found.
Dive team and helicopter to come: OPP
Meanwhile, Ontario Provincial Police say their own search operation is dependent on weather, and more resources will be available as conditions improve.
"We're at the mercy of Mother Nature right now. We're waiting for things to melt," said OPP Const. Paul Nancekivell.
"When they do, we're intending to bring our dive team back and our helicopter."
A Facebook group with over 17,000 members has been a space for Croft and the boy's father, Cam Young, to provide updates on the search.
On Saturday, Young thanked volunteers for showing up on the long weekend to help in the search.
His post ended the same way all of his posts in the group do — "See you tomorrow."
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