Almost six months after Mekayla Bali was last seen at a bus depot in Yorkton, Sask., her family is offering a $25,000 reward for the safe return of the missing teen.
“It takes a village to raise a child and I would add it might take a country to find one,” Mekayla’s mother, Paula, said at an update on the case in Regina on Thursday.
The money has been raised for the reward fund by the community in Yorkton and Regina through lemonade stands, bottle drives, steak dinners, silent auctions and more.
“We’re extremely hopeful that this will make a difference in terms of the tips or perhaps the quality of the tips or that it will bring forward information that we’re desperately seeking,” Paula said.
“Sometimes it feels like a very personal difficulty…to have the community just come behind us with such vigor helps us with hope that we will be able to find out what’s happened to Mekayla and where she is right now.”
Bali, who was 16 at the time of her disappearance, was last seen at the STC bus depot on 1st Avenue North in Yorkton, Sask. at 1:45 p.m. CT on April 12. She was reported missing the same day. She has since turned 17.
In July, RCMP said investigators spoke with employees at the bus depot and have determined Bali did not board the bus on April 12.
Paula said the last time the family heard from Mekayla was when she was dropped off at school that morning.
She also said it is out of character for Mekayla not to be in contact with her family.
On July 20, the Missing Children Society of Canada said a child search alert for Bali had been activated in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Bali is described as Caucasian, 5’2”, 125 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes. She also goes by the name Mekayla Niebergall.
She is known to change her appearance. Police say her reddish hair can be dyed blond or other colours. Bali is also known to wear her hair down, pulled back, straight or wavy.
Bali sometimes wears dark rimmed glasses and a teal/mint-coloured infinity scarf.
Insp. Jennifer Ebert, with the RCMP “F” Division South District, reiterated Thursday that the unknown adult man who may have been with Bali at the STC bus depot has not been located at this time.
Police describe the man as between 40 and 50 years old, 5’10” to 6’2”, with dark hair and a tattoo below his left elbow of a cross with flames around it.
“He still isn’t identified as a suspect, however this is someone who we believe was one of the last people that is known to have seen where Mekayla was,” Ebert said.
“And we need to speak with that individual, to confirm: did Mekayla say something to him? Was there a conversation that took place? Was there any intent of Mekayla as to where she may have been going? Who she was meeting with?”
He was seen leaving the bus depot at the same time as Bali.
Ebert said police still are receiving tips that go back to April 12 when Bali disappeared.
“In total, we’ve received 130 tips from the public,” Ebert said.
“Information has been received from as far away as British Columbia. It is not known if Mekayla is in this area, however, especially due to the time that has passed, we want everyone to be on the lookout for Mekayla.”
Ebert said there is no indication of foul play but RCMP wish to speak to and locate Mekayla to confirm she is safe.
Amanda Pick, CEO of the Missing Children Society of Canada, said it’s important that anyone with information to share it.
“It takes one person,” Pick said.
“Even if you think that the information that you have is insignificant or small or may not be the right information, we’re asking you to come forward.”
The mayor of Yorkton, Bob Maloney, also spoke on Thursday and said residents of the city have been watching the case closely.
“We all have daughters and when a young person like this disappears, it causes great concern in the community,” Maloney said.
Anyone with information on Bali’s whereabouts is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
“We love her and we are desperate to ensure that she is safe and that is most important at this point is just to determine that she’s safe,” Paula said.