Hundreds of balloons floated into the blustery gray sky. Some were pink, others the colors of the rainbow. Some were adorned with hand-scrawled messages and drawings; others featured Hello Kitty, Elmo or birthday designs. One was in the shape of a giant number 2.
All were to commemorate what would have been Daisy Jo Holland’s second birthday Monday. The toddler’s body was found Sunday afternoon in the Elk River, almost two days after she vanished from an Elk River campground.
Judy and Terry Brenteson were among more than 200 people who streamed into Orono Park in Elk River for the balloon release. Like many others, they don’t know Daisy’s family, but came to show their support. “We’re just sympathizing with them,” Terry Brenteson said as he clutched a balloon on a thin ribbon.
The couple live near the Wapiti campground where the girl disappeared and said authorities searched their land.
Jennifer Quaal of St. Michael came to the park with her 11-month-old and 2-year-old children. She said it was especially heartbreaking to think of Daisy, the same age as her son.
Briana Munson, who is eight months pregnant, came with her mom. They said they know the family and didn’t want to talk more.
If Daisy’s family members were at the park, they were well shielded by supporters. They don’t want to talk to the news media, one woman said. “This is about Daisy and her birthday,” she said. “We’re here to celebrate Daisy.”
Steve Matula was at the park, too, with six others in chartreuse Minnesota United T-shirts. He is the brother of Mandy Matula, 24, who has been missing almost a month.
He said volunteers searching for her covered 6 miles on Sunday around Mississippi River Park. Nothing was found, and they plan to wait for more information from police before their next search.
He was asked how he’s holding up. “The more people that come, the more I get excited and motivated,” he said.
But Monday was a day for Daisy.