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‘We’re not giving up:’ Virtual 2020 Michael Dunahee run held amid coronavirus crisis

At left is Michael Dunahee at four years old. At right is an earlier age-enhanced to show what he might look like at 26 years old. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO.
At left is Michael Dunahee at four years old. At right is an earlier age-enhanced to show what he might look like at 26 years old. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO.

It’s been exactly 29 years since four-year-old Michael Dunahee vanished from a playground in Victoria, B.C., sparking one of the largest police investigations in Canadian history.

The boy’s parents have never stopped searching for answers in his unsolved disappearance, and this year, they’re marking the anniversary in the midst of a global pandemic.

“The COVID-19 has kind of taken away from how we’re feeling, but deep down, it’s still there,” said mother Crystal Dunahee.

“It’s not going away anytime soon so we’re just going to wait.”

The novel coronavirus crisis forced Crystal and Bruce Dunahee to change course on a key annual event held to generate awareness about their missing son and raise funds for Child Find BC.

With a public health order banning gatherings larger than 50 people, the 2020 “Keep The Hope Alive” walk and run for Michael Dunahee went ahead on Sunday March 22 on a virtual platform.

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“We had to make a decision and it was either cancel it, postpone it, or take it virtual,” Crystal told Global News.

Participants in the first virtual event were encouraged to run, walk or cycle remotely and then share photos or video on social media upon completion, using the hashtag #MichaelDunaheeRun2020.

More than 100 people registered including Victoria’s Scott Browning, the coach of the men’s program at Hong Kong Lacrosse Association. He posted video online of his hike up The Peak in Hong Kong.

“It’s a great way to remember and think about Michael and the events of that day where he went missing,” Browning said in a message shared on Facebook.

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“We all hope that Michael is out there and doing well, and hope is what we all need right now. Stay healthy everybody.”

Back in B.C., close family members joined Bruce and Crystal Dunahee in walking the usual five-kilometre route through Esquimalt, staying two metres apart from each other to maintain social distance.

Dunahee went missing from Blanshard Elementary School, now University Canada West, on March 24, 1991.

He was last seen around 12:30 p.m. in the area of the school playground. The four-year-old was playing metres away from his parents, who lost sight of him for a matter of seconds as Crystal played touch football on the field.

Click to play video: 'Archive: 3 days since disappearance of Michael Dunahee' Archive: 3 days since disappearance of Michael Dunahee
Archive: 3 days since disappearance of Michael Dunahee – Mar 23, 2016

Despite an extensive search involving hundreds of volunteers and the most sweeping investigation in the Victoria Police Department’s history, Dunahee was never found.

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“We still don’t know where Michael is or what’s happened,” said Crystal. “It just sort of puts that message out there even stronger that, as a family, we are not giving up.”

Victoria police have received more than 11,000 tips in the cold case and the department’s Historical Case Review section continues to try and crack the Dunahee mystery with advancements in forensics and technology.

“We remain committed to solving Michael’s disappearance,” said Detective Sgt. Michelle Robertson in a news release.

READ MORE: Dark Poutine podcast recap: Where is Michael Dunahee?

Dunahee vanished less than two months before his fifth birthday. He would be 33 years old today.

Anyone with information about Dunahee’s disappearance is asked to call the Victoria police dedicated tip line at 250-995-7444.

– With files from Amy Judd

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