Iowa community celebrates missing cousin's birthday

2012-10-03T05:06:00Z 2012-10-03T05:09:55Z Iowa community celebrates missing cousin's birthdayWaterloo Courier The Quad-City Times
October 03, 2012 5:06 am  • 
EVANSDALE, Iowa --- The bracelet on Misty Morrissey’s wrist, bearing images of her daughter, Lyric, was a gift.

“Someone just gave it to me tonight,” she said.

But Misty would have much rather had her daughter present to receive gifts. Tuesday was Lyric’s 11th birthday.

Lyric Cook-Morrissey and her cousin Elizabeth Collins, 9, have been missing since July 13 when they disappeared after going for a bike ride together. Their bikes were found near Meyers Lake, but the girls have not been seen since. Authorities have labeled their disappearance an abduction.

Well over 100 people — family, friends and classmates of the girls — gathered at Countryside Vineyard Church to celebrate Lyric’s birthday together. Most were wearing pink or purple T-shirts bearing the girls’ images.

Stations were set up throughout the building for kids to create birthday cards for Lyric, decorate sugar cookies and assemble friendship bracelets bearing the girls’ names. The color purple, said to be Lyric’s favorite, dominated the decor.

A banner with Lyric’s picture and the words “Sweet wishes for Lyric” lay on a table for guests to sign.

Surrounding the banner, and throughout the building, Misty Morrissey placed dozens of pictures of the girls. Lyric could be seen as a grinning baby, a toddler in a purple dress, wearing a Halloween costume and sleeping in her mother’s arms.

Kallie Daniels, 5, sat at a table piled with crayons, markers, stickers and stencils decorating a card for Lyric with hearts and smiley faces.

Kallie knows of the girls and said she misses them.

“I don’t know when they are coming back,” she said.

Elizabeth’s parents, Heather and Drew Collins, and her siblings also attended the event.

They marked Elizabeth’s 9th birthday July 31.

“We like to get together like this,” Drew Collins said. “It brings us together as a family. We are just holding on to hope they are coming home.”

Drew Collins said the family is trying to stay positive.

“If you get negative, it will kill ya,” he said. “If Heather has a bad day, or I have a bad day, we pick each other up.”

He said the love and support shown to the family has been amazing.

“It has been nonstop,” he said. “This community has adopted these girls and they will see that once they get home safe and sound.”

Events like the one held Tuesday help keep the girls in the spotlight, Heather Collins said.

“We want the girls never to be not thought of,” she said.

McKenzie Curl, 9, and Makayla McGrath, 10, sat together at the cookie decorating table. Both girls have run into Lyric and Elizabeth over the years at parties and on playgrounds.

“It’s sad that Lyric can’t be here,” McKenzie said.

“I know they’ll come back,” Makayla said. “You have to keep faith.”

Near the conclusion of the event, guests gathered in the parking lot to sing “Happy Birthday” and release dozens of purple balloons.

Countryside Vineyard Pastor Bill Van Wey choked up while delivering a prayer.

“It’s been a long time,” he said. “We just are praying for them to come home.

“We are just praying some how, some way, that they (the girls) could see them,” he said of the balloons. “And that some how, some way they know how many people love them and care for them.

“This entire community has put themselves on hold for them in whatever capacity they need.”

“The support has been great from this community, this city and this state,” Misty Morrissey said. “But beyond everyone else here tonight, I just want the girls here.

“We just keep praying and keep believing that God will bring the girls home.”

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