CONWAY -- The reward for information leading to the safe return of a missing Conway teen has been increased to $25,000, community organizers said Sunday.
"When a child is missing, there is no such thing as somebody else's child," Conway resident and local organizer Jenny Wallace said. "[She] belongs to all of us, and it's going to take all of us to bring her home. Someone knows where she is, and we desperately need them to come forward. We are hopeful the reward will motivate someone to provide important information."
The reward increase was announced at a birthday celebration Sunday for Tanvi Marupally, who was last seen Jan. 17 heading north on Davis Street in Conway. The reward was increased most recently from $5,000.
As searches continue, members of the community gathered Sunday to plant an AU-Rosa plum tree in the Faulkner County Library community garden to celebrate Marupally turning 15 on Friday.
"I'm so thankful this community has rallied around Tanvi," Wallace said. "Tanvi loves the outdoors, and she loves nature, and we don't want her birthday to go by without taking the opportunity enjoy the things that [she] would enjoy."
About 100 people crowded the celebration as many filled the seats and lined the walls of a room in the library just after 2 p.m. Sunday. Residents shared hugs, tissues and words of encouragement as they celebrated the teen's birthday.
Conway's Purple Cow restaurant also provided a freezer full of milkshakes to hand out during the tree planting portion of the celebration after finding out Marupally had asked for two milkshakes just before her birthday.
The leading private investigator on the case, Kandis Studdard, also shared during the celebration a letter from Marupally's mother.
The first line of the letter read: "Dear Conway family, we would like to sincerely thank everyone who has stood with us during this difficult time."
Her letter then went on to thank a list of people and businesses for their ongoing help and support in searching for her daughter.
After the letter, organizers shared a clip of Marupally presenting an "about me" assignment for class in which she spoke about what is most important to her.
In the video -- which was taken Jan. 17, the last day Marupally was seen -- she highlighted her love for her family, reading, traveling and learning.
Wallace encouraged community members to use Marupally's words and empathy to continue to help efforts to bring her home.
"She desperately needs us," Wallace said. "Emailing the leaders of our cities, the leaders of our state, making this go national -- whatever we can do -- that's what's worth spending your time on. This child is worth spending every bit of effort and every bit of energy that we can stand. Being here today means the world to her friends, and it means the world to her family, and it's such a testament to this community."
Marupally was last seen wearing a purple coat, pink pullover, blue shirt and blue jeans. She has short black hair and brown eyes. Marupally is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 115 pounds.
Those with information regarding her whereabouts are encouraged to call 911 or the Conway Police Department tip line at (501) 450-6135.