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Volunteer search team finds success

Posted at 11:12 PM, Feb 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-19 15:43:09-05

If a loved one goes missing, you'll likely use every resource possible to find them. Oftentimes, that means going beyond law enforcement.

One option available is a nonprofit group called Bridging the Gap. They are a relentless search team who have found 18 people in eight months.

Teresa Walkabout can rest easy knowing she did everything she could to find her friend Deno Hamilton. Hamilton had been missing five days, and Bridging the Gap answered her calls for help.

 “These people have the biggest hearts I've ever seen in my life,” Walkabout says.

Hamilton was found in a wooded area near Woodall in Cherokee County. Members from Bridging the Gap swarmed in, and he followed the sounds of their four-wheelers. He was barefoot, dehydrated and covered in ticks but he was alive.

If he wasn't found, it was going to be over soon,” says Walkabout.  “And, the doctor even told me he would've never lasted another day.”

Not everyone has been as fortunate. Clay Holly lost his son Chazz in a case that crossed from Oklahoma to Texas.

“There were a lot of police departments involved in our situation,” Holly says.  “It was multi-county, multi-state deal, and it was hard to get any of those people to talk to each other.”

Chazz was missing for four weeks. Bridging the Gap members found his body in six hours.

“They're digging into the story,” he says.  “Where's this person now?  What was their motive?  Where are they going?  They were thinking about that.”

Bridging the Gap formed in June 2015, after 20-year olds Ben Baber and Cody Parrick went missing. Their bodies were found in Lake Eufaula but family members carried on in their honor by helping others.

“We just had no idea that there were so many missing,” says Bridging the Gap founder Julie Pendley. “There were so many families that needed our help.”

Bridging the Gap members recently trained with FEMA and Homeland Security to expand their capabilities.

CLICK HERE for more information regarding Bridging the Gap 

They now use a search and rescue app to help them cover more ground efficiently. The one thing they hope to improve is their relationship with law enforcement.

“Probably one of the biggest struggles and challenges in the searches is law enforcement,” Pendley says. "You know, just trying to get them to support us and let us get out there and look.”

But, it hasn't stopped them. The group has grown to 100 volunteers. They are nurses, truck drivers, graphic designers and stay-at-home moms who use their own money and equipment to search on weekends. 

Ben Baber's dad is forever grateful.

“They don't give up,” says Baber’s dad Joe Berryman. “They don't want to give up until the person is found.”   

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