FAIRFIELD — Karen Francis said Ron Reynolds, maternal grandfather of Ayla Bell Reynolds, showed her kindness about a year ago.

Francis returned that goodwill by organizing Saturday’s gathering in honor of the missing toddler at VFW Post 6924.

“We did it to get her home with her mommy in Portland,” Francis said of the benefit.

Ayla, whose second birthday is Wednesday, was reported missing by her father, Justin DiPietro, the morning of Dec. 17, 2011, in Waterville.

Francis, of Winslow, said she met Ron Reynolds when her husband, Kelvin Francis, was transported by LifeFlight to a Portland hospital.

Francis said she didn’t have time to pack any clothes when she rushed to be by her husband’s bedside and that Ron Reynolds, a security guard at the hospital, went out and bought her a change of clothes.

“He was a very nice guy, and now he’s having a rough time,” she said.

Francis called Ron Reynolds and Trista Reynolds, Ayla’s mother, at 2 p.m. Saturday from the VFW hall.

The 60 or so people at the VFW cheered for the toddler and shouted happy birthday to Trista Reynolds’ son, Raymond Fortier, who turned 1 Saturday.

On a speaker phone, Ron Reynolds said he wished he could be in Fairfield but the family was celebrating Ray’s special day in Portland.

“I appreciate everything everyone is doing up there,” he said.

Francis said she and friends spent about three weeks pulling together Saturday’s event. The $5 fee for adults and $3 fee for children will be donated in Ayla’s name to two groups — LostNMissing Inc. and Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, Francis said.

LostNMissing Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides services for families of missing loved ones, and the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital provides pediatric medical and surgical care.

Amy Whitney, of Benton, said she has never met Ayla’s family but has been moved to try to help.

“Look at her,” she said, looking around at the many photographs of a smiling Ayla decorating the VFW. “She stole our hearts and we want her home.”

Whitney said she hopes in addition to raising money, the event encourages people to remain hopeful and keep looking for Ayla.

Kassie Snider, 19, of Oakland, said she attended with her daughter McKenna Cummings and helped plan the function “to keep her name out there and so that people won’t forget.”Alan Pouliot sang a song that he had written for Ayla as attendees dined on food donated by a number of area restaurants.

The singer-songwriter said a couple of weeks ago the lyrics came to him in a matter of minutes.

“They were God-sent,” he said.

The chorus includes the lines: “Ayla, where you been hidin’? We’ve been looking, little girl, but there’s no sound of you.”

Pouliot, Whitney and others at the event said they planned to attend a vigil to mark Ayla’s second birthday at 6 p.m. Wednesday at 22 Monument Square in Portland.

“Ayla’s Convoy” will leave Elm Plaza in Waterville at 3:30 p.m.; Whitney said all are welcome to join the caravan.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]


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