Woodstock, Ont. -
The family of Victoria Stafford said Monday they are planning a charity motorcycle ride to raise money to help with expenses during their ordeal and to keep the case of the missing eight-year-old girl in the public eye.
At a news conference in this southwestern Ontario city, the girl's mother, Tara McDonald, once again pleaded for the safe return of her daughter, known as Tori to family and friends, who has been missing for almost two weeks.
"I'd like to once again plead to the public," McDonald said with a quavering voice. "If you know anything, or if you have my child, please just bring her home.
"You cannot imagine how we are feeling, and we are missing her so much that it hurts. Look into your soul and find the compassion to please just let her go and let her come home."
McDonald's aunt Linda Jacklin said the motorcycle ride, dubbed "Tori's Ride Home," will be held May 2 in Woodstock to raise money for the girl's family to help with "expenses that come up."
"This is a charity ride to help the family at this time with what they're going through - it is not that they're going to be given cash."
Jacklin said the money raised from the ride will be used to set up a second bank account to help with the family's phone bill. A separate bank account had previously been set up for other expenses.
"The first one is for mental help from psychiatrists, psychologists, whatever is needed, and a trust fund for the children," Jacklin said.
"This one is to keep the phone going because obviously no one here is working right now. We want Tori to be able to call home, not call and there be no phone."
Jacklin said 400 motorcyclists have already told her they plan to attend the event.
The only tangible lead police have made public is a grainy security video from April 8 showing a woman with long brown hair and a puffy white coat walking with Tori the afternoon she went missing after school. No one has come forward to identify the woman, and her face is not clearly visible in the footage.
McDonald said she remains hopeful that her daughter will be found before the date of the ride.
"We are actually hoping that it will be a celebration that Victoria will be at," she said. "If she is returned to us by May 2, she will be there so that she can celebrate with everybody and thank the community for the support that they've given for her."
McDonald said that on Sunday, someone went by her house and left a gift: a tree adorned with teddy bears, butterflies, a porcelain angel and a photo of Tori. The family has decided to call it the Tree of Hope.
"We have no idea who dropped it off - somebody just left it on the porch," she said.
"I would really, really like for them to come to my door and they will be welcomed into my home. I'd like to thank them personally, because it was beautiful."