One of Crystal Dunahee’s favourite memories of her son Michael was when the family brought home his sister for the first time.
“The best one was when Caitlin was born. He was her big brother, he always wanted to be helping out and doing what he could for his little sister,” said his mother Crystal. “He always wanted to hold her.”
On Sunday, March 24, 1991, four-year-old Michael went missing from Blanshard Elementary School and was never found.
“It was a hard day. It’s just one of those things where you allow him to do something for the first time and then it back fires because that’s what had happened,” Crystal said. “You allow him to go to the park for the first time while we were 100 yards away putting the other stuff down. Bruce went to go be with him and as far as we know, he didn’t make it to the park.”
Michael was last seen around 12:30 p.m. in the area of the school playground wearing a blue-hooded jacket with red lining and red cuffs, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shit, multi-coloured rugby pants and blue sneakers.
Since his disappearance 24 years ago, more than 11,000 tips have been received by police and the case has spawned one of the largest police investigations in Canadian history.
The family and community are working hard to keep Michael’s case in the public eye with annual drives and the Michael Dunahee Slo-pitch Tournament of Hope in August.
The 24th annual softball tournament was started by the Victoria Labour Council to help fundraise for Child Find B.C. and the Michael Dunahee Search Centre.
Hundreds of people are expected to come out and watch the 24 teams in action.
“I think people will take away what they’ve always taken away which is hope, hope for our children, hope for a better future,” said Steve Orcherton, executive director with Child Find B.C.
Last year they raised just over $12,000, a goal they hope to beat this year. All the money raised goes towards Child Find B.C. to help fund its services, such as ID kits, and literature and education programs, which are currently offered for free to families.
“As a family, it’s very heartwarming to know that the community is still supportive and there for us all the time,” Crystal said. “We just do whatever we can to keep hope alive because we just don’t know. We just have to keep going and keep it out there so people don’t forget.”
The tournament runs from Aug. 7-9 at Topaz Park. For more information, visit childfindbc.com.