GASTONIA, NC (WBTV) - For the second night in a row, community members came together to pray for a little boy who has gone missing in Gaston County.
A couple dozen people gathered in an empty parking lot not far from Rankin Lake Park Tuesday night. Concerned citizens have been closely following the story of Maddox Ritch. The 6-year-old boy with autism has been missing since Saturday afternoon. He was at the park with his father and another adult when he disappeared. First responders have been scouring the area for days.
“As a mom and a grandmother, it just tore me up,” said Alisa Crowe, a woman in attendance at Tuesday night’s vigil.
Crowe said she wanted to pray with others after seeing the story on the news.
“It excited me because even coming out here I can encourage somebody,” explained Crowe.
The group gathered for around a half an hour. They prayed together and sang ‘Amazing Grace’ before going their separate ways. Some in attendance feel a connection to Maddox because they are parents themselves.
“It could have very easily been either of my two (kids). I have a 3-year-old and 6-year-old and my 3-year-old tends to run off,” explained parent Kara Smart.
Zachary Smith, a Dallas resident with autism, led the group in prayer during the vigil. He said he understands what Maddox may be going through.
“I feel bad for him. That’s why I came tonight – to show my support for him,” explained Smith.
Some of the people who attended the vigil also brought supplies for the first responders who have been searching for Maddox.
Officials continue to ask that anyone who was at the park on Saturday please contact their tip line number at 704-869-1075.
Maddox was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with writing “I am the man” and black shorts with white stripes. He has blonde hair and blue eyes. He is 4 feet tall and weighs 45 pounds. Officials say Ritch is nonverbal.