Marleen Zak

Throughout the 30-mile walk from Hutchinson to Howard Lake, United Legacy stopped to recognize missing people from across Minnesota. On mile 22, Deanna Schroeder, right, stopped with Marleen Zak to bring attention to the missing case of Joe Zak. Joe has been missing since Dec. 7, 2015, and was last seen at his group home in Crookston. Any information regarding him should be directed to the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office at 218-525-7000.

United Legacy knows how it feels not to know.

In 2014, founder Deanna Schroeder and a volunteer search party comprised of family and friends searched along roads and through fields from Howard Lake to Hutchinson after Schroeder's brother, 25-year-old Chris Rossing, went missing.

Now she's looking back on six years of helping others in similar situations through the charitable organization of searchers she helped to establish.

RETURNING TO HUTCHINSON

The search party that found Rossing's remains in a field southwest of Hutchinson departed from the McLeod County Fairgrounds Oct. 11, 2014.

This past Sunday, Oct. 11, United Legacy volunteers departed the fairgrounds at around 7 a.m. to walk to Howard Lake, where Rossing was last seen. They walked the same 30-mile stretch of highway Schroeder walked in her search for her brother. Along the way, she and her family stopped every mile for a live awareness post about a missing person.

This is the walk's second year. The event was originally meant to be more public, but due to COVID-19 that changed.

"Instead, this year it's only a private event for United Legacy volunteers and friends and family who have lost a loved one," Schroeder said.

Those taking part in the walk or supporting walkers helped raise money for the 501c3 through sponsorships, and eventually met up with a public drive-in rally departing Lake Bowl in Howard Lake. Participants in the rally paid $30 per vehicle and drove together to the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson. Along the way they cheered on those who were on foot in the other direction.

The event functioned as a major fundraiser for United Legacy, which has had its public fundraising options limited due to COVID-19. Anyone who would like to support United Legacy but missed the opportunity to participate in the rally can visit unitedlegecy.org to contribute, or offer support on its Facebook page.

HELPING FAMILIES

Rossing's killer was eventually sentenced to 22 years in prison, but when the news of her brother's disappearance first reached Schroeder, there were no certainties about what had happened.

“When that hits you, your loved one is missing, you are in a white room alone, you don’t know what to do,” Schroeder said in 2015 when United Legacy was only just beginning. “There is no one to swoop in and tell you it’s OK. When you watch movies … they give you this idea about this big manhunt, but that just does not exist.”

Now the nonprofit provides manpower and expertise to carry out that large searches, and offers guidance so families don't feel so alone. Trained volunteers help search on the land, water and air.

"We offer a wide variety of services at no cost to families or law enforcement," Schroeder said. "We organize public and private searches."

A key role of United Legacy is interacting with families.

"We want to help as many families as we can not feel lost, not feel confused," Schroeder said, "and know they are going to be supported and they can talk to someone who can relate with what they're going through."

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