GIRARD - Patricia Marks and Katie Tingler know what it's like to have a missing or deceased child.
The two longtime friends were among those who attended a special Mass and social gathering recently at St. Rose Church for the families dealing with such tragedies.
Marks of Girard, one of the event organizers, was there for her son Daniel, who went missing in November 2005 while hiking and camping in Kauai, a small Hawaiian island. He was 24 years old at the time and has not been seen since.
Patricia Marks of Girard, center, shows friends Katie Tingler of Brookfield, left, and Annaleise Lessick of Girard a flier with a picture of her son Daniel Marks. Daniel went missing in November 2005 while hiking in Hawaii. The three women were among those who attended a special Mass and gathering in April at St. Rose Church in Girard to provide comfort and support to families with a missing or deceased child. Tingler had a son die and a daughter who is missing.
She said the idea for the gathering was to provide some spiritual strength and comfort to anyone in a similar situation. Participants could bring a photo of their child, memorabilia or articles to share with others. Marks brought photos of Daniel.
''We need the support from one another, not only from those who have lost a child but also from those who have not lost a child. They can all be there as the strength to those of us who have lost a child to hold us up, because sometimes we feel ready to fall down,'' Marks said.
She said the event is held to recognize that everyone's child is very dear and important to all. Many of her family members and friends were among those in attendance.
Among those friends was Tingler of Brookfield whose adopted son, Paul Crawford, was a victim of suicide, and whose adopted daughter, Cherie Crawford, has been missing for five years. Tingler was a foster parent to many children before adopting.
''The two of us have been friends since high school and have supported each other," Marks said. "We have many things in common we are happy to share, but we have other things in common which we wish we didn't.''
Marks and Tingler, who are both social workers, have received support from Girard High School senior Annaleise Lessick, who has been using the Internet to search for Daniel Marks and other missing people.
''I enjoy being at the Masses and supporting Patricia in what she is going through,'' said Lessick, who also has volunteered with Marks at the Girard Multigenerational Center.
Tingler said she appreciates the support from family and friends but said things can get very overwhelming.
''It's very hard to face the grief at times,'' she said.
Marks said although many people attend the Mass, not everyone wants to say much about their loss.
''Some people attend and don't want to communicate more than that, and that is fine. Many people deal with their loss in their own way. We want them to know we are there to provide comfort to them and know they are not the only one,'' Marks said.
Rita George of Pleasant Valley Church, whose 13-year-old daughter died of leukemia, also helped organize the event.
Marks plans to continue holding the Mass each year.