In a time of need, volunteers mobilized to search for Daisy Jo

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

When Henry Griner of Elk River learned Saturday morning that a little girl was missing from Wapiti Park Campground, he grabbed his gear, got in his Jeep and headed to the campground to see if he could help.

A former member of the Civil Air Patrol, which searches for downed aircraft, Griner had been trained in ground searches and had participated in air searches. He also is an amateur radio operator. And, he has a granddaughter who is 2 1/2 years old.

“Knowing that somebody’s little one was lost out there, I wanted to be there and do what I could to help,” he said.

He arrived about 8:20 a.m. Saturday, was admitted through the checkpoint and talked to Elk River Police Chief Brad Rolfe.

When authorities set up a large ground search for Daisy Jo Holland and asked for volunteers, Griner was asked to take out the first team of volunteer searchers at about 11:30 a.m. They searched an area between Highway 10 and the river, east of the campground, for about an hour and a half, concluding their search when they met up with other teams.

Griner was then sent to the Island View area to check on the search teams there.

Scotty Mitchell of Big Lake was another volunteer who led a search team. Like Griner, he is a member of the Sherburne County Amateur Radio Emergency Services. He got a call from a person in that organization, alerting him that search volunteers were needed. “So I went,” Mitchell said.

His team searched an area upstream from Wapiti Park in the area of Yankton and Troy streets.

Mitchell, who owns the Elk River Dairy Queen, said he’s been involved in various things throughout his life including police reserves, fire department and ambulance. When he learned of the need for search volunteers, he felt like that was something he should do.

Elk River Police Capt. Bob Kluntz said about 260 volunteers were involved in the search last Saturday and their help was greatly appreciated.

He said the support of the community and the work of so many, including the agencies, the volunteers, the people from Gateway Church and people in the campground,  “really helped our efforts a great deal.”

“Obviously this was a tragic, tragic end and it was difficult for all of us,” Kluntz said.

Gateway Church, located along Highway 10 near the campground, became the hub for the volunteer search effort. People registered there and a Salvation Army truck was set up to feed people.

The church also assisted Daisy’s family.

Paul Salfrank, lead pastor at Gateway Church, said Daisy’s grandfather, Keith Holland, left him a message early Saturday morning that his granddaughter was missing. Holland works on Salfrank’s cars and Salfrank said he has become a good friend.

After Salfrank got the message, he went to the campground to help however he could.

“I responded as a friend first and then a pastor second,” he said.

Salfrank said he worked with Tom Sterneman, the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Department chaplain, and talked to other law enforcement personnel and “offered our services.”

Daisy’s family spent a number of hours at the church on Saturday and Sunday.

“We just prayed together, read Scripture, talked and laughed and cried,” Salfrank said. “And then the chief came in and relayed to the family that they had found Daisy Jo.”

Salfrank said he can’t say enough about how professional and compassionate the police chief and all the law enforcement personnel were.

But in the end, Salfrank said it’s very, very sad.

“Our hearts are all broken,” he said.