For Robert and Charlene Spierer, whose daughter Lauren has been missing since June 3, this holiday season will be more difficult than usual.But despite everything, the disappearance has brought together a family of volunteers from across the country, some of whom attended a support and prayer walk Saturday. “The holiday season is when you spend time with your family, and the Spierer family is going to be a member short,” said Shelly Leonard, an administrator of the Facebook group Voices for Lauren Spierer. “I wanted to make the load a little bit lighter.”The event was organized by Leonard and other members of Voices for Lauren Spierer in conjunction with the six-month anniversary of Lauren’s disappearance.The event began outside the Smallwood Plaza apartment complex, where clusters of people gathered on the sidewalk to listen to supporters read poetry, sing and speak about an enduring hope to bring Lauren home.Among the first to speak was junior Blair Wallach, who first met Spierer when they were 9-year-olds attending the same sleep-away camp. They’ve been best friends ever since, she said, and were roommates their freshman and sophomore years at IU.“I just want to say thank you for everyone’s love and support for the past six months, and hopefully we’ll find out where my best friend is,” she said. She then left a message for Lauren: “I miss you. I love you. We’re never giving up.”Charlene Spierer took the microphone in front of the crowd. “I just have to thank you all for being with us and for not forgetting about Lauren,” she said. “She’s so much more than the face on the poster, and she deserves so much better than this.”People who were once strangers to the Spierer family and came together in search of Lauren listened as Charlene Spierer spoke of enduring perseverance.“Whoever took Lauren away from us is the worst person in the whole wide world,” she continued.Some of Lauren’s friends cried, as did some who never met her but still felt the weight of the past six months.“I just want to say I love you, Lauren. I love you with my heart, my soul, and your dad and I will always look for you,” Charlene Spierer said. “We will never give up our search, and we are here for you until the day that we can bring you home.”Following the vigil, a group of about 50 people walked to Fountain Square Mall, where a tree stood near the entryway.Instead of ornaments, tags with Lauren’s picture hung on the tinsel-laced branches. On top of the tree was a stained glass Star of David.Leonard, who initially joined the search effort because Lauren reminded her of her daughter, arranged for the tree to be displayed through Jan. 3, 2012, next to a mailbox labeled “Spierer Family,” in which supporters could leave holiday cards and letters.The group Voices for Lauren Spierer was created, in part, for people to leave positive messages for Robert and Charlene Spierer, group administrator Joe Bailey said. The event served a similar purpose, Leonard said, but also provided an opportunity for people to bring forth information about the disappearance.“I thought that creating a venue where people could leave cards and letters without police involvement, for the fear that might be attached to the tip line... I thought if I could give them an opportunity for that, someone might leave information for where she’s at,” she said.The Facebook group will continue to raise awareness doing whatever they can, Leonard said, whether that means using Twitter to tweet about the disappearance or creating more events like the prayer and support walk.“When I met Rob and Charlene, Charlene told me that she was afraid people would forget about Lauren,” Leonard said. “I told her we wouldn’t let that happen. We would do everything we could to keep her name out there.”HOW TO HELPIf you can’t make it to the memorial tree in Fountain Square Mall, send cards and letters of support to:Support the SpierersP.O. Box 284Bloomington, IN 47402
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