As a father and friend of the family, Richard Croft says it was a no-brainer to help in the search for three-year-old Kaden Young, who went missing in the Grand River three weeks ago.
Kaden was in his family’s van, being driven by his mother Michelle Hanson, just before 1 a.m. on Feb. 21 when it went into rising flood waters from the Grand River. The river had overflowed its banks and flowed over the road near their home just outside Grand Valley.
Hanson tried to get herself and Kaden out of the van, but as she did, Kaden was swept out of her arms in rising flood waters
A booster seat and a T-shirt have been found, but there have been no other significant signs of Kaden, police said.
Croft has stepped up to mobilize hundreds of volunteers to do grid and line searches along the Grand River.
“I’m just one to help and this is one of these situations where they really need help,” he told CBC K-W’s The Morning Edition Tuesday.
Slow and steady searches
Each morning at 9 a.m., volunteers meet at Kaden’s family’s home in the hamlet of Waldemar, west of Orangeville.
The van went in less than a kilometre from the family’s home and searchers have been covering the area from where the van entered the river down to Belwood Lake near Fergus — about 15 kilometers away.
A tent is set up in the driveway of the family’s home and volunteers meet there to be separated into teams of 10 to 15 people. It’s also where they can pick up supplies like pickaxes, chainsaws as well as water and food.
Croft said the teams then head out to designated areas to begin searching. One person is at the river’s edge and the others form a line up the bank. Each person is responsible for the three meters around them and they move slowly.
Where before searchers were covering three to five kilometers each day, Croft said now they’re picking through 300 to 500 metres a day, turning over everything they can and marking what they can’t move.
In some areas, heavy equipment has been brought in to break up and move ice that remains on the ground three weeks after the flooding.
“It’s unbelievable the amount of machinery we have out there for the places that we can’t get a man to move stuff,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable — you’ve got 6 foot high walls of ice jammed all together from the river.”
Hear Richard Croft on CBC K-W’s The Morning Edition:
A job for everyone
Not everyone can swing a pickaxe and use the chainsaws but Croft assured there is work for anyone who is willing to volunteer. Helping the line searchers are people who are there to record information, take pictures and just be eyes on the ground. As well, volunteers are on the bridges over the Grand River with refreshments for the volunteers.
Croft said the ground searches are only for adults 18 years and older and that’s largely because of what they are hoping to find: Kaden’s body.
He said the volunteers are prepared to find the little boy, but younger volunteers shouldn’t be there when it happens and they’re being encouraged to help in other ways.
“I’m just feeling with March Break, if we can give a little push to get a couple of extra hands out, if your neighbour can watch the kids for a couple of hours just to give a hand. I’m telling you, even those couple of hours brings us closer to our mission and that’s to bring Kaden home,” Croft said.
“There’s a job for everybody. Everybody wants to help and we have so much support.”
‘An amazing little boy’
A Facebook page called Bring Kaden Young Home to his Family has been set up for people who want to help in the search.
Township of Amaranth Mayor Don MacIver said the support from the community to find Kaden has been incredible.
“The volunteers that have been there from the start — hundreds and hundreds of volunteers are continuing — people want to find Kaden,” MacIver said. “And it’s a heavy commitment by our firefighters and people in our public works department and volunteers and police … they’re all working together to try and find him.”
Const. Paul Nancekivell of Dufferin OPP said the emergency response team is out by the river daily continuing its part of the search.
“On occasion through the week, they’re going to fly the helicopter just to keep an eye on the ice situation,” Nancekivell said. “Once it warms up, of course, we’re looking at putting divers back in the area.”
In the meantime, there are fundraisers being held for the family, some are hanging blue lights on the bridges over the Grand River in Kaden’s memory and Croft and others will continue to volunteer their time to search for Kaden.
“Since we’ve started this group thing, we’ve got huge support with each other now,” Croft said.
“We’re not just a community now, we’re family,” he said. “[Kaden’s] just an amazing little boy. We’ve got to bring him home.”