It wasn’t just law enforcement who found Jace Lyon on January 20, it was the entire Hillsdale community.
As police scoured the area for the 9-year-old, they were aided by nearly 200 volunteers from the community, in addition to an anonymously-donated $5,000 ransom.
“You see missing kids all the time and of course it makes you feel sad, but this one being so close to home made my heart sink,” community member Kathryn Watkins said in a Facebook message. “As a mother of two myself, I started to panic thinking that could be one of my babies.”
Watkins attends Hillsdale Beauty College, which gave students the day off if they wanted to help with the search.
“It was cold and rainy but I didn’t even care,” Watkins said. “All I could think about was Jace curled in a ball somewhere scared and, if he was, then he was colder and wetter than me.”
Watkins was just one of many volunteers who trudged through rain to search for Lyon on Friday.
After hearing of the missing child, Director of Campus Security and Emergency Management William Whorley activated the Hillsdale College Emergency Response Team, sending 21 students out on college property to search for Jace.
Led by Whorley and senior Hank Prim, the search gave the team real-life experience, said Whorely, and involved them with the community.
“While the student population may not be transient,” Whorely said, “they’re still a part of the Hillsdale community.”
More was donated than just eyes and ears, though. Donations of food, water, and hand warmers poured in for volunteers.
Some of these donations landed at Key Opportunities, the home base for those searching due to its close proximity to Field of Dreams.
“Within probably 15 minutes, our community stepped up and started bringing donations for the people who were out searching,” said Julie Boyce, executive director of Key Opportunities.
Among the businesses that donated were Bigby Coffee, Market House, Godfrey Brothers, Inc., McDonald’s, and H and R Block. Individual citizens also donated.
Lisa Nave, manager of H and R Block in Jonesville, Michigan, said she was worried and scared when she heard Jace was missing.
“I couldn’t imagine a nine-year-old being out there by himself,” she said.
Still, many expressed awe at the community outpouring.
“I think so many times we go and push through our day-to-day lives and don’t think about what’s happening with other people,” said Boyce. “This is a time when there was a time of need and everybody just stepped up.”
Watkins wants Jace to know his community loves him.
“I hope he can see that after the search efforts and never forgets it,” she said. “So often these situations don’t have a happy ending and it was very relieving that this one does.”