Fundraiser held for missing Merced County girl

MERCED COUNTY, Calif.

Vanessa Smith's mother hasn't stopped looking for her daughter since the day she disappeared. Now, she is trying to raise money, to help with the ongoing search.

Bev Smith greeted law enforcement officials and other supporters at Merced's Courthouse Park Saturday. She planned this fundraiser, which included a raffle and food sales as a way to thank them for their efforts over the past fourteen years -- and encourage people to continue looking for her daughter.

"I believe she's alive in my heart. And not alive in my heart. But, she's alive out there. I know it. And know she's alive with all my heart," said Bev. "I never doubted that."

Vanessa disappeared on May 31, 1997 while walking near the family's Winton home. Since then, leads have come and gone. Merced County Undersheriff, Tom Cavallero says while the department can't afford to work on the case full-time -- they appreciate the family's tireless efforts.

"You know, I think anything helps if it enhances awareness because you just can't predict who knows what," said Cavallero. "And, undoubtedly, someone knows something."

A $50 thousand reward is still being offered in Vanessa's case. Her mother hopes to raise enough money to place two billboards -- throughout the area to keep the search going.

"Times are hard now, and we understand that," said Bev. "But, we do want her home and all the love and support we get from everybody. We can make that billboard happen."

Bev needs $4 thousand to reach her goal. Family members say it's a small price to pay for the chance to finally have some peace of mind.

Vanessa's brother, Rudy Smith said, "There's hope for everyone and especially when it's your own family. The hope is higher. You want to see them again."

Vanessa's family has set up an account to help fund their efforts.

Vanessa Smith Trust Fund
Travis Credit Union
981 Bellevue Road
Atwater, CA 95301

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