Avonte Oquendo Search Update: Family Launches Official Facebook Page and PayPal Account
It has been months since 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo went missing, but Avonte's family and volunteers are not ceasing in their efforts to bring him home.
Avonte's family set up an official Facebook page to get the word out about what people can do to pitch in with the search effort. The page is called Official Help Find Avonte. The other Facebook page, Bring Avonte Home, is not the official page and is not run by the Oquendo family.
The official page recently released a message that the family has opened a PayPal account that allows people to donate to cover expenses that are needed during the search.
The message on the Official Help Find Avonte page reads, "The PayPal account that is linked on this page is the only Official and legitimate means in which anyone can donate funds to ensure that all expenses associated with the Official Help Find Avonte search continues. 100 percent of every dollar gifted, will go to postage, rent, electric,phones, flyers, and related expenses that are required to ensure all monthly and associated costs are met."
The family is also imploring people to volunteer to help with the search by distributing fliers. The new address of the Avonte Oquendo search headquarters is 21-81A 24th Street Astoria, NY 11105, and the phone number is 718-606-6610.
Avonte Oquendo's mother, Vanessa Fontaine, spoke recently to the Queens Gazette about her son's disappearance.
"We want to get word out that Avonte is still missing," Fontaine said. "When he first disappeared, dozens of volunteers showed up to help with the search. We understand that people have their own lives, their own priorities," Fontaine said. "But we need volunteers to go out and look for him. We need people who can spread the word that Avonte is still missing."
It has been over three months since Avonte, who is severely autistic and nonverbal, walked out of his high school in Long Island City and vanished.
The NYPD School Security officer working at the entrance to the school told investigators that she saw Avonte running out of the school that afternoon.
"She said she asked Avonte where he was going," the source said. "When he didn't respond, she just let him go," the source said. "She said she didn't know he was a special needs student and she didn't check with anyone to see if he was."
As of Dec. 1, police said they have received close to 900 tips on the NYPD Crime Stoppers Hotline. Almost every tip has been investigated, but to no avail. Investigators have also viewed close to 1,000 videos, but they have not been able to locate the missing teen. The tapes have led to the discovery of two other missing children, however.
The search for Avonte has expanded into New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester and parts of upstate New York.
"He is extremely shy around strangers," family members said. "So we are telling anyone who might see him to approach him very calmly. Print his name on a piece of paper and if he responds, call 911 immediately," family members said. "Stay with him because he is likely to try to run away. Call 911 and give the operator any new location he may take you to."
Fontaine believes that her son is alive, and that he was most likely abducted by a stranger shortly after he left his school.
"Someone has him," she said. "We just have to keep looking until we find him and bring him home."
"Right now we need volunteers who can give us any amount of time to help with the search," an organizer said. "We need extra eyes on the street during the holiday season when hundreds of people are rushing around. We have to get people out there to look through the crowds, in case he's out there with someone."
The family is also mailing fliers to households and businesses in the city.
"It's the first time that information on a missing child will be mailed to households," Fontaine said. "So many people tell us they didn't know Avonte was missing because they don't watch television, listen to the radio or read newspapers. People may not watch the TV news or read newspapers, but everyone gets their mail. These mailings will put the disappearance and Avonte's photo in their hands, so they have to know he is missing."
Fontaine, who said she is not looking forward to Christmas this year, is urging the public to be on the lookout for her son.
"He's out there, somewhere," she said. "I don't want anything for Christmas this year, except my son. All I want for Christmas is Avonte."
Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS or go to www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.