by Amber Jensen
On March 27th, Loon Lake residents, Brent and Michele Sainsbury, got the call no parent wants to receive. A call from their 13-year-old daughter, Ana’s school counselor, immediately sent them into crisis mode. When the Sainsburys took the call, they were 20 miles from home. The counselor informed them that their daughter had made troubling comments regarding suicide.
Brent says “We rushed home, not knowing what we would find. When we got home we spoke to her about her feelings and fears. She was upset and when we tried to get her into the truck to go get her some mental health help, she took off down an embankment into thousands of acres of wilderness.”
Brent goes on to say, “When I say wilderness, I mean, nothing but actual wilderness and lakes… coyotes, cougars, wolves… also, you never know who you might run into wandering around out in the forest. It was terrifying.”
The parents immediately went out after her, doing their best to track and follow her. Brent says that he and his wife quickly panicked while hiking through the wilderness trying to track their daughter. They knew they couldn’t do it alone and get to her in time to help her.
It was cold. It was getting dark and their daughter had expressed to them that she didn’t want to live.
Michele called the sheriffs when they realized it wasn’t going to be a quick effort to find their daughter.
Brent, remembering how often members of the MTFU (Man the Family Up) Facebook group help the community, decided to reach out for support.
Brent took a deep breath before stating, “I’ve been a member of MTFU for about a year and I never anticipated what would happen next. I knew it was a 45 min drive from Spokane but I hoped anyone in our area would be able to help.”
Within an hour and a half, there were over 75 MTFU members on scene, ready to search and help. Some brought friends, some brought their sons and daughters and entire families to help look for Ana Sainsbury.
MTFU members began to take charge, set up a grid and even took over some communication for the Sainsburys. Some group members set out to contact neighbors and property owners as others searched roads by vehicle and the forests and properties by foot on a grid. A few members provided radios and flashlights to help with the search.
Brent and a large group of MTFU members worked through the wilderness toward the highway while another group moved toward them on the other side of the highway.
Meanwhile, the sheriffs were conducting their own search.
Brent says, “Over 6 miles of road was covered and acres of wilderness and private land searched. We were starting to get discouraged. At the same time, MTFU members began reaching out to residents in the area online and by phone.”
At one time the police said that there were more than a 100 MTFU members aiding the search.
Brent Sainsbury got the call he was waiting for, shortly after he and Michele had filed a missing person report and the amber alert went out.
Ana Sainsbury was found 15 miles from the Sainsbury home. An MTFU member and his wife found her on the highway and were able to get her to get in the car when the wife approached her and knew her name and situation.
When Brent and Michele arrived at their home, there were several MTFU members and sheriff’s deputies waiting. Ana and her parents were reunited. The group support didn’t stop after she was found.
Brent and Michele were offered meals, transportation, help around the house and even a place to stay while Ana received medical attention in Spokane.
Brent says it was “a brotherhood of men that extends past the group. Their wives and kids and families are a community in and of itself. They were all there to support us; they still are.”
With membership growing to over 50k members, and the community feeling that Brent Sainsbury says he experienced, Brent says he will be a member for life, if possible, and he will do anything for the brothers and families of the group.
Ana was missing for three hours and was found roughly 2 hours from when the MTFU group was enlisted for support. MTFU members came from Spokane, Colville, Newport, and even Sandpoint, ID.
Brent adds, “It’s unbelievable. It leaves me speechless. This group has done more for my daughter and our family… it’s remarkable. This group is changing the community and I’ve experienced it first hand. These guys are touching lives and making a difference. This group is changing everything for the members and the community. Just knowing we’re not alone, I mean, I wasn’t alone and it made the biggest difference to me. To our daughter.”
While many Facebook groups are about bonding over cyber similarities, it’s being shown that MTFU is about real human connection.
Brent recounted that “One of the members said something that stuck with me and my daughter and that is that she now has 50,000 uncles that care about her and are here for her.”
Contributing Writer, Amber Jensen
Amber Jensen is an author, journalist and freelance copywriter specializing in pieces that highlight the human condition as connection and contribution. She hails from small-town Idaho and makes her chaotic home on a piece of dirt in Eastern Washington, with her adventure-seeking husband and four wild children.
Learn more about Amber by visiting www.amberjjensen.com