Tuesday was a tough day for Drew and Heather Collins, as the search continued for their daughter Elizabeth, and her cousin Lyric Cook, missing from Evansdale for nearly three weeks.
That's because Tuesday was Elizabeth's 9th birthday. Her friends, teachers, and people in the community gathered in Elizabeth's honor, continuing to hope for the safe return of both girls.
Cupcakes with sprinkles and cards with glitter seem like good decorations for a birthday party, but the guest of honor for a Tuesday celebration is missing.
"It shows a girl's arm with a bracelet that says: Pray for Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook," said friend of Elizabeth Collins, Collin Yu, as he held a card he made.
Being without Elizabeth on her birthday is one of the toughest milestones yet for her parents.
"It was hard just to get up this morning," said Drew Collins.
"Yeah, but we have other kids, and we've got to stay strong for them," Heather Collins said.
With pink t-shirts, and even some pink hair, Elizabeth's classmates gathered at an Evansdale church to make "cupcakes of hope." It's one way they're supporting each other as the search continues for both Elizabeth and her cousin Lyric.
"I worry about it every day. She was funny and nice, too. And it was sad to hear about it," said Kayla Curtis, friend of Elizabeth Collins.
"It's sad that they're missing. They first thought they were lost, but now they're guessing they were kidnapped. And parents worry about kids like us about what if we get this problem," said Yu.
So being together for Elizabeth's birthday, helps the community cope with the girls' disappearance.
"We're trying to stay positive, so bringing the community together to do something as positive as create cupcakes to say "thank you" to anybody that's been helping out, puts a smile on our face," said Poyner Elementary Principal Trista Manternach said.
Birthday girl Elizabeth and her cousin Lyric might not get to enjoy the celebration, but as the sweet treats made in their honor are delivered, they'll be a reminder to keep hope alive.
Heather Collins says she found herself looking through photos of when Elizabeth was born nine years ago. She's clinging to the memories she has, while praying that her daughter and niece will come home soon.
The Collins family says even though some of the media attention surrounding the girls' disappearance has faded, police have not slowed down their investigation. Leads continue coming in, and investigators are in constant communication with them.
Anyone with any information on the girls' whereabouts should call the tip line at 319-232-6682. You can also call the Cedar Valley Crimestoppers at 1-855-300-tips. There is a $50,000 reward for any information leading to their return.
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