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Search for Healing: Family of missing Maple Park man reaches out to another family in the same situation

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2007 12:00 a.m. CST
Bradley P. Olsen of Maple Park holds his newborn daughter Meredith in 2000 in this photo provided by his family. Olsen has been missing since Jan. 20. He was last seen at Bar One in DeKalb. Provided photo

Grateful for the volunteers who have searched for their still-missing adult son, a Maple Park couple are turning personal heartbreak into help. Sue and Bill Olsen's son Brad has been missing since the early morning hours of Jan. 20 and was last seen at a DeKalb bar. Several searches by hundreds of volunteers in and around the DeKalb area have failed to turn up any information on the whereabouts of the 27-year-old. &#8220Closure is what we need mostly,” Sue Olsen said. &#8220It's hard to believe it's been four months and we don't have anything.” Last week the Olsens decided they needed to give back some of the help they've received in the search. They joined about 50 other people to look for 45-year-old John Spira, who disappeared Feb. 23 near West Chicago. As with Brad Olsen's disappearance, there have been no records of Spira or anyone else using his bank accounts or credit cards since he disappeared. &#8220We always said to each other if one of these searches happens, we'll try to be there and help them out,” Bill Olsen said before the search on Saturday. &#8220When we did our search for Brad, I was so choked up by the people who helped us I couldn't talk to thank them. We wanted to do the same.” The search was organized as part of Rachelfind, a grassroots, Web-based effort to find missing persons. Rachelfind is a volunteer organization to help people search for lost loved ones in or near the Chicago area who are still missing after police searches. Rachelfind was started by Jeff Skemp, whose daughter Rachel Marie Mellon Skemp disappeared on Jan. 31, 1996. The group works to keep names of missing people in the minds of the public and helps to coordinate volunteer searches. The organization does not take donations, but directs those interested to donate to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va. No traces of Spira were found during the five-and-a-half-hour search through forest, fields and land within the area near County Farm Road and North Avenue in West Chicago, Spira's last known location according to cell phone records. Sue Olsen said she felt searching for Spira was something she and her family members had to do. &#8220We were totally overwhelmed by the amount of people who came to help with Brad's search,” Sue Olsen said. &#8220We just felt we needed to help someone as well.” Anne Bielby, coordinator for Rachelfind, met the Olsens during a search for Brad on March 19. She had posted a link on the Web site to Brad Olsen's Web page. Bielby put the Olsens in contact with Stephanie McNeil, Spira's sister, who headed up the search on Saturday. &#8220One of our goals is to become better trained for searches,” Bielby said. &#8220What we are right now is a resource.” Since Brad's disappearance, Sue and Bill spend every other weekend with Brad's 6-year-old daughter, Meredith. They also take solace in spending time with their four other grandchildren who live in Maple Park and Elburn, while hoping for new developments in the search for their son. &#8220We keep in contact with the police weekly,” Bill Olsen said. &#8220Lately they just don't have any leads, which is disheartening to hear, but they feel confident that Brad will be found somewhere.” On Jan. 20, Brad Olsen went from his parents' home in Maple Park to Bar One, 1000 W. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, with a few friends. According to DeKalb County Detective Sgt. Rudi Ziegler, Olsen was last seen around 2:30 a.m. looking for a ride home. He last used his cell phone at 2:24 a.m., police said. As of now, police have no new leads on his whereabouts. &#8220Something has definitely happened to him because he lived here with us,” Sue Olsen said. &#8220There was never a 48-hour period where we didn't know where Brad was. Even whenever we would go out of town, he'd always call.” Sue and Bill describe Brad as an active sports fan &#8220who lived every day to the fullest.” He enjoyed playing soccer, football and baseball while growing up in Maple Park. After graduating Kaneland High School, he worked in a construction business with his brother. &#8220Bill comes from a very large family right here in Maple Park,” Sue Olsen said. &#8220He had a lot of cousins, four (of them) the same age. We have a pretty tight-knit family.” About 325 people searched DeKalb County on March 19 for Brad. Volunteers used planes, all-terrain vehicles, horses and canoes to scour the county, while focusing on an area in which Brad's cell phone signal relayed off two towers. The Olsens hired a helicopter for the search. Maple Park Fire Chief Kevin Peterson coordinated the search using grids that arranged volunteers in a way that covered most of DeKalb County, Bill Olsen said. Many of the people who came did not know the Olsens before learning about Brad's disappearance. Among them was Bielby. &#8220With searches for Brad Olsen, John Spira and (38-year-old) Scott Arcaro from Lisle, it is very important that people check their private properties,” Bielby said. &#8220If people looked through farm and forest areas that border their property, they would cover so much more ground than a group of volunteers.” If anyone has information about Brad Olsen, they can contact Det. Sgt. Rudi Ziegler at (815) 895-2115. Benji Feldheim can be reached at

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