Fundraisers held in honor of Alyssa Byrne

January 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
As a family in Petaluma struggles to deal with the loss of a daughter, the community around them is coming together to help other families going through the uncertainty and fear of a missing child.

19-year-old Alyssa Byrne disappeared during a New Year's Eve celebration with friends in South Lake Tahoe. Her body was found Friday morning.

Alyssa's father, Kevin Byrne, is still trying to come to terms with the loss of his little girl. On Saturday a fundraiser was held in her honor to bring awareness and support for families forced to deal with missing and/or exploited children.

"She was one of the most energetic people I've ever known in my entire life," Kevin said. Alyssa's father and her brother, Greg Byrne, are struggling to come to terms with their loss, "Alyssa touched the hearts of so many people," Kevin said.

Alyssa went to the Snow Globe Music Festival in South Lake Tahoe on Monday night and hadn't been seen since. That prompted her family and friends to lead a search. Then on Friday came the disturbing news that no one was prepared to hear -- a utility worker found Alyssa's body, covered in snow, about 10 feet from the road. Police believe she may have been trying to walk back to her hotel.

"She will be missed by us every day, every day," Greg said.

All reflections on Alyssa quickly turn to her free spirit and strong will, both reflected at an early age, "She was a great baseball player," Little League Coach Ed Mooney said.

At 12, Alyssa was the only girl in Petaluma playing Little League. The team was so successful, partly due to her skills at second base, that they made it all the way to the city championship game.

"It was just a joy to have her, and from that part of her life I think everyone would remember her," Mooney said.

That's why dozens turned out to Beyond the Glory Bar and Grill in Petaluma. They are one of four venues working with Alyssa's family to raise money for missing and exploited children.

"If there's something we've learned from this, if we can help another kid that's missing, that's what our hope is," Greg said.

There are three other venues holding fundraisers in honor of Alyssa -- Pongo's Kitchen and Tap and Mi Pueblo in Petaluma. And Maverick's in Santa Rosa will donate 15 percent of their sales.

The Byrne family has requested that all proceeds from the events go to the Polly Klaas Foundation, the KlaasKids Foundation and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Police confirm there was no trauma to the body and no signs of foul play.

The family has not made arrangements for funeral services because Alyssa's body must first go to Sacramento for a full autopsy before it can be released to her family.

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