Dulce Maria's family holds onto hope she is returned to them

A vigil for missing 5-year-old Dulce Maria Alavez was held in Cumberland County Saturday night as law enforcement officials from various agencies continue their search for the young girl.

Several hundred people gathered at Bridgeton City Park to pray for Alavez, who was last seen in the same park Monday afternoon.

“It’s already been five days that she’s been missing and we just beg the people if they know something to tell the police,” Yiesica Hernandez told FOX 29.

Several hundred people gathered at Bridgeton City Park to pray for Alavez, who was last seen in the same park Monday afternoon.

Hernandez, Alavez's cousin, was flushed with emotion as friends and strangers begged for the girl’s safe return, with a $35,000 reward on the table for information.

“It’s hard to describe how my family and I feel,” Hernandez said. “She was a happy little girl. She would always call us and say ‘When you coming to my house?’”

A $35,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Many came from afar, like Carmen Martinez, of Jersey City.

“I love children even if they’re not my own and being that she’s only 5 years old, it means a lot what’s going on right now in the community. So, as a parent, I wanted to be here for her,” Martinez explained.


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"You cannot imagine what we are going through," Dulce’s grandmother said in a statement. "Please help our family, I beg of you."

Search crews have been scouring Bridgeton City Park in Cumberland County after Alavez disappeared while playing on the swings with her 3-year-old brother Monday afternoon.

The children's mother was sitting in her car 30 yards away with an 8-year-old relative. The 3-year-old returned to the car without Alavez. The mother reportedly rang up every family member.

“She just called, she was crying and asking me if she was with us,” said Hernandez.

More than 100 officers from state and local police searched Friday in Cumberland County, on the ground and using a state police helicopter.

Investigators say Alavez was lured into the back seat of a red van by a male suspect who has been described as 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8, with a thin build and acne on his face. He was wearing orange sneakers, red pants and a black shirt at the time of the reported abduction.

Dulce Maria Alavez

Many attending the vigil were parents themselves, including the vigil organizer, who said the mission is personal.

“I did this because if, God forbid, if it were to happen to one of my kids, I would want all the help I could get," said Jackie Rodriguez. "I would want the community to be like this, to come out."