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Avonte Oquendo's mother: If you have my son, let him go

Since Oct. 4, the parents of autistic teenager Avonte Oquendo have been living a nightmare.

Avonte Oquendo, 14, an autistic boy from Queens, NY, has been missing since October 4, 2013. CBS New York

The 14-year-old was last seen on surveillance video walking out of the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, Queens 17 days ago.

Hundreds of volunteers have joined in the search for Avonte, hoping his mom's personal message will bring him out of hiding.

Avonte's mom, Vanessa Fontaine, and his brother, Jason Oquendo, visited WLNY's morning program.

Avonte's family claims to be a tight-knit group. As Jason said, they are leaning on each other in this difficult time.

"It's hard. I mean, every day we're just supporting each other, trying to keep our spirits up, hoping to hear some good word. Try to smile, when we can," he said. "It's very tragic trying to find him, but we're pulling together, just pulling along."

Perceman said the family appreciates the large turnout of New Yorkers who have come out to lend a hand in the search for Avonte, but said they need more help.

"What's next is to try to get more New Yorkers involved," he said. "Volunteers are needed. As much as the family appreciates [those who have already come out], we need more. We need thousands of people to comb the city. It's a big city. If enough people get involved, hopefully we get Avonte back home."

Avonte's mom had a message for her son: "Mommy loves you, the family is here for you, and we're going to find you."

She also had words for anyone who may be with Avonte.

"If someone has my son, please be kind to him and let him go," she said. "Put him in a public place full of people and let him go. Walk away."

Avonte is 5-foot-3 and weighs 125 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black shoes.

Anyone with information is asked to contact NYPD Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit the Crime Stoppers website or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and enter TIP577.

So far, more than 6,700 people have helped with the search effort.

Volunteers are using signs and shirts to get the teen's picture out while the NYPD is deploying school safety and other officers out on the streets in droves.

The reward for Avonte's safe return is up to $85,000. Cops have received more than 200 tips and have checked out 60 registered sex offenders in the Long Island City area.

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