Yellow ribbons for Joshua bring media attention

Maple Lake came as close as it will likely ever get to hosting a media circus when representatives from two Twin Cities television stations and the St. Cloud Times journeyed to town to cover a tribute organized by Maple Lake High School students for missing Maple Lake man Joshua Guimond.

Guimond, who has been missing since November 9, was a 2000 graduate of Maple Lake High School and a past vice president of the Student Council.

On the morning of December 19, current members of the Maple Lake High School Student Council tied yellow ribbons on every sign post, tree and fence within reach from the school through the downtown area as their way of honoring Joshua and bringing attention to a search that is still ongoing, even at Christmas.

Following the students around town were crews from KARE-11 TV, KSTP-TV and the St. Cloud Times, who captured images of Student Council members tying ribbons during a light snowfall on Thursday morning. Among those interviewed were Student Council Advisor Dave Hansen and current Student Council President Ryan Finke.

Hansen said the yellow ribbon project was a collaborative effort that began with members of the parent/teacher group Friends of the Irish obtaining ribbon for the students. From there, the 7th grade Social Studies classes of Lisa Elfmann cut the ribbon into manageable lengths as part of a community service project. And finally, Student Council members spent an hour on Thursday, distributing the ribbons as a visible reminder that Joshua is still missing.

“We wanted to do something to help the effort to find Joshua and this was the perfect opportunity,” Hansen said. “We had talked before about how we could help. The kids really wanted to do something, but didn’t know what and that was frustrating. But this ribbon project was a powerful way to make a statement. It was a perfect avenue for the Student Council to get involved.”

Hansen said that some of the older Student Council members remembered Joshua and worked with him on council projects, while others who didn’t know Joshua volunteered to tie ribbons to show the support of the school and community for the search effort. And he said Joshua was one of those rare students who made lasting changes in high school.

“A lot of kids are benefiting from Joshua’s impact and the things he did for this school and they don’t even realize it,” Hansen said.

Hansen said students were also surprised at the media attention and the cameras that followed their every move on Thursday.  “I don’t think they realized that something small we would do could have such a big impact,” he said.

Ryan Finke was one of those students who worked with Joshua on the Student Council.  “He took Student Council and things like that very seriously,” Finke said. “But he was also a nice guy and treated everyone with a lot of respect.”

Finke said the statement students made with their yellow ribbons was important to make to the people of Minnesota.

“I think it shows how much this community really cares and how much we want Joshua home,” he said.

Joshua’s father, Brian Guimond, watched the activity downtown and talked with reporters covering the event.

“I thought is was great,” Brian said of the student effort. “It lets people know that more people than just Lisa and I are looking for answers. It’s more like the whole community.”

Brian said the next step in the search for Joshua would likely be to acquire the services of the bloodhound that the family of missing student Chris Jenkins brought in earlier this month. The dog, Hoover, who is based in Milwaukee, managed to pick up the scent of Jenkins and the family is anticipating bringing Hoover back in again. Brian said Hoover’s handlers want to wait until their work for the Jensen family is done before starting on another case.

“They don’t want to confuse the dog with different scents,” Brian said. “They’ll get that deal done and then they’ll be working just for Josh.”

And a network of family and friends is keeping the Guimond family informed about other missing person cases.

Brian said Joshua’s Mock Trial coach at St. John’s has gathered information on Chad Sharon, a student from Pelican Lake, Wisconsin, who attends the University of Notre Dame. Sharon disappeared on December 12 under circumstances very similar to Minnesota’s missing college students. He was a high-achieving honors student who turned up missing after leaving a late-night party.

“And it was close to the interstate,” Brian noted, which seems to be a common thread in all of the previous disappearances. Because of the similar circumstances, Brian said he’s been told that authorities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana are conferring about the possibility of connections in the cases.

The search for Joshua will need continued funding and a benefit dinner and silent auction for that purpose is being planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on January 19 at the Maple Lake VFW. More details on the event will be included in future issues of the Messenger. Anyone with questions about the benefit can call MaryJo Miceli at 963-5477.