First, hundreds came out to search for little Maci Reed while others kept them fed and hydrated. Some took to prayers and offering virtual support on Facebook through words and a special picture frame.
The search may have come to a sad ending, but the support for the Reed family continues unabated.
The prayers continue and there’s just as big a social media presence as there was at the beginning. Nowadays, however, a special social media hashtag and another picture frame have been created. There’s a rock painting campaign underway, helped along by Facebook and the Safford City-Graham County Library.
Maci was with her family on July 22 when their vehicle was swept into Cottonwood Wash during a monsoon storm. Most of the Central family was able to make it to safety, but the 4-year-old went missing. Her body was found by volunteers four days later, less than two miles from where she was washed away.
Morenci resident Vanessa Romero has never met the Reed family, but ever since she heard about the tragedy on Facebook she hasn’t been able to get Maci’s face off her mind.
“I woke up and it was all over Facebook. That this flash flood had taken a 4-year-old little girl. Immediately, I just started praying for the family. As soon as I saw that she was 4 years old and the water was going so fast. You know, I was just praying, immediately praying for the family.”
Unable to help search because of her work hours, Romero felt she had to do something for the family. When she learned Maci’s body had been found, she decided she’d tweak a tradition she and her 13-year-old daughter, Izellah, began three years ago. As it turns out, her pastor’s wife, Bryanne Lane, had a similar idea.
The Romeros have been painting scriptures on rocks and leaving them around Greenlee County and parts of New Mexico. They call them “promise rocks.”
“The purpose of those rocks is just to get the word of God out to people,” Romero said.
The Romeros decided they would begin painting #SmileforMaci on rocks, too and leave them for people to find.
A short time after coming to their decision, Romero said she received a text from Lane, whose husband is pastor of First Assembly of God in Morenci.
“My pastor’s wife actually texted me and she said that it was on her heart to do something with rocks and she wanted to know if I could help and I was like, ‘Well, I was already thinking to do this....’ She said, ‘Can you come up with the name?’ So I prayed on it and the first thing that came to my mind was ‘Smile for Maci’ because in every single picture of that little girl, she’s smiling.”
Romero put her idea out on the Facebook page set up after the storm and then started her own Facebook page. About 1,700 people reacted to her original post and more than 300 began following her page, Romero said.
Not only are members of her church joining the project, but so are people all over Arizona, Romero said. Even a former resident of Greenlee County now living in Italy plans to ship her rocks back to be distributed.
“We just hope that these rocks will be a reminder to the family that people are praying for them,” Romero said. “The whole purpose of them is anytime anybody finds one of these rocks, we just hope that they remember the family and pray for them and just cover them with the blood of Jesus and smile for Maci. That’s all that we wanted to do, to spread some positivity. Be the light in the world like that little girl.”
Gila Valley resident Charmaine Chidester had knee surgery a few years back and knew she couldn’t get down in the mud to look for Maci. But she knew she had to do something. So, she created a frame people could put around their Facebook profile picture, a frame that said “Pray for Maci.”
On Tuesday, Amy Allred, the Pima resident who created the Search for 4-year-old Maci Facebook page, asked her to create a new picture frame. This time, the Reed family asked if the frame could carry the hashtag #laughlikemaci.
She immediately got to work and while posting it Chidester said, “May our continued prayers, support, and unity uplift the family during this tender time.”
The reaction to it has been overwhelming she said, but not surprising.
“The first Facebook profile frame that I made, Pray for Macy, was used by over 6,000 people. That says a lot about our community and those outside of our community, too. The new one, #laughlikemaci, already is displayed on over 1,000 profile in less than two hours,” Chidester said Tuesday night.
Unless you live in the area, Chidester said people just don’t understand how tight knit the community is.
“I don’t know how you market that,” she said.