May 20, 2013 1:29 AM by Alex Labat
Tonight marks the one year anniversary of the disappearance of Mickey Shunick.
Friends, family and the Lafayette community rallied together for 83 days on a mission to "Bring Mickey Home".
The name Mickey Shunick has become synonymous with a heartwrenching story of loss, of hope, and of healing.
But what about those who have gone missing since then...or even those who went missing "before:" Mickey's disappearance?
Families around the world are still searching for answers...and so is Charlie Shunick.
Charlie led the charge to find her sister Mickey, and to this very day she's making sure other people, from right here in Acadiana to halfway around the world, will be brought home.
Just like Mickey.
Working towards her Masters at the University of Texas, Southwestern has been a full-time job for Charlie Shunick.
But schoolwork isn't the only thing she's working on.
"I work on spreading knowledge and information on all sorts of things and talking about missing people all the time", says Shunick.
The Cognitive Neuroscience graduate is taking the lessons she's learned in her search for her sister and passing on that knowledge through social media, like the "Find Mickey Shunick" Facebook Page.
Shunick says, "We have about 39,000 members and through that we can reach over 6 million people."
She's working to help campaigns fight misinformation by making sure the correct information gets into the right hands.
"Tons of people try to help out and they think it's a good idea to make Instagrams and Facebook pages, and then they're getting tips. You're not getting those tips, the tip lines aren't getting those tips, the police aren't getting those tips, and things just get washed under the bridge. They can be really really really important", says Shunick.
She says it's vital to never think that any tip is too small, because closure can come at any time.
Shunick says, "It really only takes one person to recognize that person, you have to think about the Elizabeth Smart case, and what happened with these ladies where they found after being missing after 10 years and being held captive, in perfectly good health. I just think that proves how important it is what we do."
Charlie's expanding her resources to help others, from Mickey's social media campaigns, to nonprofit organizations both here...and across the globe.
"We're hooking up with a non-profit organization for missing people in Australia, called the Missing Persons Advocacy Network that my friend Loren has started", says Shunick.
A friend, half a world away, yet very close to Charlie's heart.
Loren O'Keeffe lives more than 9,000 miles away in Southern Australia.
She is searching for her 25-year-old brother Dan who went missing two years ago.
During her search efforts, Loren stumbled across the story of another missing person. 21-year-old Mickey Shunick.
O'Keeffe says, "About a year ago I came across Mickey's, and when I did I had a bit of a Google search afterwards, just being so impressed by everything that Charlie had been doing with their search for Mickey, they had benefit concerts and they had wristbands and they had t-shirts and they had such enormous public support that I was really inspired by that."
Through the inspiration of "Bringing Mickey Home", O'Keeffe is hoping through her work, "Dan Comes Home" as well.
And while she waits for the day she can see her sibling once again, O'Keeffe says having someone like Charlie Shunick gives her all the hope in the world.
"Just knowing that there's someone that I can call at anytime, and have a cry to about something that's going on and for them to understand that is the most support for me, and I had been looking for someone like Charlie in Australia and there was no one. So, having finally come across her and now we're pen pals and we FaceTime, it's just incredible", says O'Keeffe.
So, after a year of questions and answers for Charlie, what's the final lesson we can learn from "Acadiana's Big Sister"?
Shunick says, "It's just really important to share information regardless of the circumstances surrounding their disappearance. You just never know."
While Charlie and her family continue to move on from the events of the past year, they still haven't lost sight of the impact Mickey brought to Acadiana.
A statement from the Mickey Shunick Campaign (which can be found by clicking here), says, "Love is in people and between people when they come together, whether in celebration or grief. Mickey showed us that reality of love, and we discovered it again and again.
As our community worked together last year. we know that love is still here, and it is still something worth fighting for".
A non-profit organization in Mickey's name is in the works, with the goal of helping to find other missing people around the world. "Find Mickey Shunick Now" is the group's Facebook page that has become a hub for people to continuously share and update missing persons' information.
Charlie says she'll be working with a search and rescue organization out of New Orleans...and that one day, she hopes to see a scholarship in Mickey's name.
Here is a list of the following resources for both the Shunick and O'Keeffe Campaigns.
For those of us inspired by Mickey, I'm Alex Labat KATC TV 3.