Who is Wade Steffey?

Dale Steffey and Dawn Adams sit in their living room as they talk about their missing son. Wade Steffey, a Purdue freshman, has been a missing-person case since Jan. 13, and his disappearance has the hearts of his family and friends torn.

The story has been told and updated in the local and national news media.

But who is Wade Steffey?

Wade went missing after attending a Phi Theta Kappa fraternity party at Purdue. Police say two calls were made to two friends after Wade left the party to retrieve his jacket.

"It's amazing how a child opens up your life," Dale Steffey says, taking deep breaths to hold his composure, "and brings so many people into your life and has his own people in his life too."

Academically accomplished

Steffey is a 2006 graduate of Bloomington High School South. He was an exceptional student while in high school. So good, in fact, his father explained how much confidence he had in his son when it came to his educational standards.

"We were pushing him, telling him he could go anywhere in the country if he wanted," Dale Steffey said. But Wade chose Purdue, where he received a full-ride scholarship.

Perfection in his son's academic accomplishments could be seen early in his life. The parents tell of a time in the eighth grade when Wade came home to reveal a B he earned in his art class. It was ironic; his parents are both artisans.

"He didn't like that," Adams explained with a deep laugh. "He wasn't quite sure he deserved that B. And he's never had a B since."

Adams described how she taught her son to read when he was 6 years old. She would stay up with her son every night for a half-hour to teach him.

"When it came to reading the words 'a,' 'the,' 'some,' I'd elbow him and he'd tell me what they were," Adams said. "So he learned to read kind of easily."

Like many children, Wade was interested in team sports including baseball and basketball. But as he grew older and entered high school, his parents said he became more focused on individual sports. He joined his cross-country team his freshman year in high school.

Larry Williams, Wade's cross-country and track coach during his four years of high school, called Wade an athlete with a great heart.

Williams coached IU student Jill Behrman when she attended the same school. Behrman, too, went missing when she was 19, as a sophomore at IU. Her remains were found a few years later by hunters.

An athlete with heart

By all measures, Williams said, Wade wasn't the greatest athlete on the team, but his heart made up for what he did not have physically. Nevertheless, Wade still earned a spot on the team to go to sectionals in track. And when they went to compete, Wade earned points in the pole-vault competition on the way to a team win.

"Tight-knit group" is how Williams explained Wade and his fellow runners. You could see that the day before a planned vigil at Purdue. A group of his friends met in a Super Wal-Mart parking lot in Bloomington to carpool there.

"I wish he was found," said Dane Lockhart, an IU freshman and friend of Wade's. They ran together on the cross-country team in high school. It was hard not to notice Lockhart's purple-and-white varsity jacket. The jacket meant more than being a member of the team at that moment. It somehow signified that tight-knit group.

Josh Murphy, a junior at Bloomington High School South, was Wade's teammate when Murphy was a freshman and Wade was a junior at Bloomington South.

"He actually was one of the top upperclassmen that would actually talk to the lowerclassmen," Muphy said. "He was a big part of the team but was just a regular guy."

Eventually, the vigil in West Lafayette turned into a blanket search for Wade's cell phone. Verizon Wireless was able to determine in what vicinity his phone could be -- a good lead at possible clues.

But the phone was never found.

Bittersweet memories

Back in the Steffeys' living room, Dawn Adams brings out her scrapbook of Wade. She and her husband describes Wade's accomplishments, including a stack of ribbons and a photo of their son posing in his wrestler's uniform with mouth guard exposed.

"He was a skinny wrestler," Dale Steffey said, "but he tried hard."

The scrapbook brought about feelings that were bittersweet for his parents as they turned the pages of photos -- Wade playing with Legos, being with his family on Parent's Day Out, posing for Little League photos.

While nearly three weeks have passed since anyone has reported seeing Wade, his parents and friends hold out hope.

On Saturday, hundreds of volunteers will scour the West Lafayette area as they try to answer the question, "Where is Wade Steffey"

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