It was an emotionally charged scene outside the Parkhill, Stanley Park Community Hall Tuesday night as supporters gathered for a touching tribute.
Nearly 9,000 people RSVP’d on a Facebook event to release a green balloon wherever they were at 8 p.m. in honour of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson Nathan.
Green is a colour many missing persons organizations use to indicate hope and a wish for a safe return.
Close to 100 people showed up behind the Liknes home, many wearing green and carrying balloons with personal messages written on them.
They counted down as a group and quietly watched as the sky turned quickly into a sea of green, many comforting each other as they tried to come to grips with this tragedy.
Among those in attendance was Tiffany Martinson who made the drive from the northeast Calgary community of Tuscany to be there in person.
Martinson and her daughter had spent four hours making 600 ribbons to share with mourners on the tennis court.
“I’m traumatized, I’m devastated,” she said. “I have a four-year-old daughter and this means a lot to me to be here and support this family anyway I can.
To me I believe that setting off these balloons will show them there is still hope and how great it is when the city can come together and show that we support them.”
Standing with a walker and oxygen machine in tow, Charlene Harron also wanted to show her support in what she described as a ‘nightmare.’
“You feel so helpless, to be able to contribute this way… hopefully it means a lot to the family that there are so many prayers going out to them,” said Harron.
Parkhill resident Lorrie Swinson organized the green ribbon campaign and was devastated to hear this had now become a murder investigation.
“I was shocked, I was shell-shocked,” she says. “I sort of had an idea that this could be the outcome, they had all their information together and it sounds like they did a very fastidious job.
I think the whole idea was if the O’Briens and Liknes’ looked up in the sky they would see the balloons and know they are supported.”
Many of the moms in attendance say it’s been hard watching the situation unfold over the news, adding it’s hard to imagine how Jen and Rod O’Brien are dealing with the situation.
“I’ve been watching it for the last two weeks and it’s affected me quite emotionally, I work with children and I can’t fathom what the families are dealing with at this point. We all need to come together as a city and country to bring peace,” Karen tearfully told reporters.
“I have little guys, I have parents, it’s heartbreaking and I just wanted to share my support,” said Jenn Hobin. “It’s heartbreaking.”
“The balloon release represents hope, hope for justice, hope for answers and hope they’re still around,” said Brad, the Parkhill organizer who went to school with Jennifer O’Brien told 660News.
Family members attended an event in Cougar Ridge outside the O’Brien family home.