IT’S been 365 days since William Tyrrell’s mum and dad felt the arms of their son around their neck.
Three hundred and sixty five days since a sister played with her little brother.
One year since a community on the Mid-North Coast of NSW jumped into action to search for a three-year-old boy who disappeared from the yard of his grandmother’s home in Kendall.
This little boy is now four and, according to police, didn’t wander off. Police are investigating a child abduction, from the quiet neighbourhood of Benaroon Drive on September 12, 2014.
Yesterday at 10.30am, marking one year to the day and the time William’s mother could no longer hear his giggles as he played, running around in his favourite Spider-Man suit, around 600 people marched in the local Walk 4 William event.
A three-kilometre walk from Kew to the Kendall Showground was a sea of blue and red, symbolising the colours of William’s outfit, as people waved balloons and wore William’s colours.
Children wore superhero outfits and solemnly walked, understanding the importance of the event.
Dale Symons, from the Camden Haven branch of Bravehearts and one of the Walk 4 William organisers in the Kendall region, said the support of the walk was “awesome”.
“So many people have this boy in their heart, it’s got to make a difference. This is William’s day, this is about bringing him home,” Mrs Symons said.
“These events show all around Australia and globally that people are very serious about supporting this and making sure it doesn’t leave people’s minds. This little fellow is now part of our community and we need to bring him home.”
At the Kendall showground the walkers gathered in quiet thought. It was not a celebration.
The walk and event which followed, Tea 4 William, launched Where’s William? Week (September 12-18), a nationwide awareness initiative expanding on the Where’s William? campaign.
People all over Australia are hosting Tea 4 William events to raise awareness and funds for the campaign.
Locally, the Tea 4 William in Kendall was hosted by Bravehearts to thank the community for their unwavering support.
The afternoon tea was attended by Bravehearts CEO Hetty Johnston AM and Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin who is in charge of Strike Force Rosann, the unit investigating William’s abduction.
Mrs Johnston read a statement from William’s parents, thanking the community for their dedication.
“William’s disappearance came close to crushing us. It’s only the overwhelming love and support from the people of the mid north coast, our family, friends and even complete strangers that has kept us going,” Mrs Johnston read.
“To the people of Kendall, there are no words to express the deep and sincere gratitude we feel in our hearts for this beautiful community, now changed forever since that dark day one year ago, when someone took our boy from us and broke all our hearts.”
Kendall was a community where children enjoyed the freedom to play. One year on, this tight-knit town is hyper-vigilant about their children. The local bus route was changed in town so that children don’t walk home from school any more.
Despite the loss innocence and independence, strength remains within the community.
The resolve in the people of Kendall remains absolute. This spirit was embedded the morning William Tyrrell went missing.
“We won’t give up,” said Lydene Heslop, who lives in Benaroon Drive Kendall.
She was one of the first people involved in the search for William when the alarm was raised in the neighbourhood.
Lydene’s determination is shared by a group of people in the community working closely with the Where’s William? campaign. Each member of the group was involved in the initial search for William in the bushland surrounding Benaroon Drive one year ago. Some of them donned boots and searched for days. Others kept the canteen stocked and staffed to keep volunteers and emergency services fed and watered.
Since the search and rescue became a child abduction investigation the core group remained in touch with the cause.
When the Where’s William? campaign was established by William’s family and launched on his fourth birthday, these women distributed campaign posters and merchandise with gusto.
“We can’t stop our efforts to find William and bring him home,” said Lydene.
“This is life. This is the new normal for us. Waking up and thinking about William. We can’t stop searching. We just can’t. If this was my child, I would expect you to do the same thing for me. I would expect my community to do this work with my and for me. So we have to keep going.”
No matter the mystery surrounding the case and the legal circumstances which prevent media from identifying William’s family, at its heart is a small boy who went missing from a small community – a community that won’t forget, or give up.
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