EVANSDALE | Ominous skies and the threat of storms didn't keep a crowd of Cedar Valley motorcyclists from riding Saturday in memory of two slain Evansdale cousins.
The third annual "Memorial Ride and Drive for the Girls" drew supporters who marked the three-year anniversary of the day Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, were abducted and killed.
Among those at the event was Joanne, a mother from Rockford, Ill., whose 13-year-old daughter was sexually abused, abducted and taken to California by a 54-year-old family acquaintance in 2009.
"A tragedy like this is life-changing," she said. "This kind of support is what keeps you going through tragedy."
The FBI found Joanne's daughter after five days. Her abductor, Daniel Trotter, will be in prison until at least age 95.
But family and friends are still waiting for justice for Lyric and Elizabeth, whose disappearance July 13, 2012, sparked a massive search that ended tragically when their bodies were discovered Dec. 5, 2012, in the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area in Bremer County.
Drew and Heather Collins, Elizabeth's parents and aunt and uncle to Lyric, said they were grateful for the continued community support and ride organizers.
"It just goes to show how much our community still wants justice and still supports our family," Heather said. "This hurt them also. It didn't just affect our family. It affected the whole community and surrounding communities."
More than 125 cyclists and others in cars left on a 155-mile ride from Lofty's Lounge in Evansdale and ended at the National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo for live music. The concert was moved from outside the Screaming Eagle to the NCC grounds due to the forecast of thunderstorms.
"If it's going to rain with thunderstorms, this is an amazing turnout," said ride organizer Chris Webb.
Proceeds from registration and raffle tickets will benefit Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers and Angels Memorial Park at Meyers Lake. Crime Stoppers still has a $20,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the girls' killer.
But Heather Collins said the ride is also important to raise awareness about the more than 2,000 kids reported missing in the U.S. each day.
"I'm not a person nor would my daughter let me be a person to sit back and not do awareness," she said.
The Collinses were instrumental in pushing for changes in state laws to shorten the time frame required before an Amber Alert can be issued. They continue to promote ways to make the law more effective.
"You can never have too many Amber Alerts … if it saves one child," she said.
-- Tim Jamison is a writer for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Like the Globe, the Courier is owned by Lee Enterprises.