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How You Can Help With The Search For Missing NY Teen Avonte Oquendo

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Tamika Mallory
October 21, 2013

As of today, October 21, it has been a total of 18 days since Avonte Oquendo went missing from school. A massive search is in full effect all over New York and the surrounding cities. When I first heard about Avonte’s disappearance, it was October 5 and I couldn’t help but think back to two summers ago when an 8-year-old Hasidic Jewish boy went missing in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Like Avonte, Leiby Kletzky’s disappearance prompted a frantic search.

I remember reading a newspaper article where a New York City Police Department spokesperson said up to 5,000 Orthodox Jewish volunteers–many of them rushing in to assist from several states away–had turned up to participate in a block-by-block hunt for the young boy.

Leiby was kidnapped as he walked home from his school’s day camp. While, sadly, he was found dead and dismembered two days later, the enormity of the search–the canine units, the helicopters, the mounted police officers but most of all, the thousands of neighbors and strangers who volunteered to look–stays with me. I was so very impressed by how they organized and dedicated time and resources to the cause. I was inspired to write about Leiby and post information as well.

Unfortunately, it’s just something you rarely see–that kind of turnout-–when a little Black girl or boy goes missing. As a matter of fact, the Black and Missing Foundation has partnered with TV One on a television show called “Find Our Missing,” which focuses on profiling missing Blacks because of the lack of high profile media attention and community involvement in searches.

In the case of Avonte, many volunteers have come out and dedicated their time and resources. His father, Daniel, has repeatedly thanked the many concerned citizens showing up to lend a helping hand. I sat with Daniel for several hours the other day and watched a little more than 50 people come by to pick up flyers, pray, cry and donate everything from food to flyers. Though hundreds more have also stopped by to show their support to the family, in a city of more than eight million people, Avonte is going to need a whole lot more folks to get involved! As the mother of a teenage boy the same age as Avonte, I have pledged my support. I have no other choice. My spirit will not rest … and I am only one of many.

So, the question I pose to everyone reading this today is, are you involved in the search? It’s not enough to watch the news, drop your head and put your hand over your heart, or write “SMDH” on someone’s social media page. Prayers are needed, but footwork is needed also. The Bible says, “FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD!”

If your local bodega, supermarket, gas station, salon, laundromat, flower shop–and the list goes on–does not have a picture of Avonte in the window, your action is needed RIGHT NOW! If your child or grandchild has not been shown a picture of Avonte and told to be on the lookout, your action is needed RIGHT NOW! If your nanny or babysitter has not been told to keep a special eye out for Avonte, your action is needed RIGHT NOW! Whatever you can do, YOUR ACTION IS NEEDED RIGHT NOW!

While NYC authorities have done remarkable work to help find him, plastering signs, searching all of the city’s subway stations and tunnels, sending divers into the nearby water and coordinating with law enforcement officials in New Jersey and Long Island in case Avonte–who is fascinated by trains–boarded one to leave the city; they can’t do it alone.

Neither can the various organizations that have stepped in to provide free services for the Oquendo family or pool funds to offer over $85,000 as a reward for Avonte’s safe return.

This is where you come in.

Will you help him?

Will you help his family search for clues?

Will you volunteer your resources, time and/or donate money to help increase the reward?

Will you do what you’d hope others would do for you if one of your loved one’s ever went missing?

If THE ANSWER IS YES here’s what you need to know:

  • Avonte has Autism.
  • He is 5-feet-3-inches and weighs 125 pounds.
  • Surveillance footage shows him running away from Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, Queens, on Friday, October 4., at around 12:45 p.m. wearing a gray striped shirt, black sneakers and black jeans.
  • Photos of his angelic-looking face have been making the rounds on social media. Take a good long look and show everyone you know.
  • He does not speak, but he can understand you.
  • Try not to excite him. Children with Autism can be scared easily. Approach him with calm or follow him while calling 911 immediately.
  • The command tent is open 24/7 for volunteers, located at 51st Avenue and Center Boulevard in Long Island City, Queens.
  • If you do not live in NYC, you can still help by sending an email to for more information.

Let’s bring Avonte home, ladies and gentlemen. One of our babies is missing and there is nothing more important than returning him to his family.

Photo credit: HelloBeautiful

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