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Family Gathers Party For Massive Search For Avonte Oquendo

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Family members and other concerned people gathered Sunday for another extensive search for Avonte Oquendo, the autistic teenage boy who has been missing since he walked out of his school in Queens more than two weeks ago.

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

His family organized teams for a massive effort Sunday morning.

And as CBS 2's Steve Langford reported, the search has captivated the New York metro area, bringing volunteers on motorcycles.

"I myself have got an autistic child also -- 3 years old -- so we know what it's like," one motorcycle volunteer said.

Some Good Samaritans who joined the search have challenges getting around, but said the search is worth it.

"I'll give up my Sunday, my Monday, my Tuesday -- it doesn't matter," said one woman who was walking with a cane.

On the "Bring Avonte Home" Facebook page, anyone looking for Avonte was asked in all capital letters to "leave no stone unturned."

"You may no longer be searching for a boy in a clean gray striped shirt. He may have changed his clothes, picked up a sweatshirt or coat, he may be soiled, he may be with someone else. It is important to look at his face. He may not appear exactly as he does in his photographs," a Facebook post on the page read. "Look carefully, pay attention to detail. And remember, he may be hiding in a place you'd never think to look."

The post advised that Avonte could be avoiding crowds and loud noises by "by hiding in a tiny nook - behind, under or in something."

Avonte's father, Daniel Oquendo, was heartened Sunday by the massive outpouring of assistance from complete strangers.

"It's beautiful, it's beautiful – I mean we've made so many new friends," Daniel Oquendo said.

The police deployment, meanwhile, has been nothing short of staggering, with officers combing every nook and cranny.

On Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton issued a community alert for Avonte, and members of his National Action Network pledged to canvass the city in search of the boy. Avonte's father appeared on Sharpton's radio show Saturday morning.

"Everybody – take the time out to look – five minutes. Come out your house, back around the block. Be aware of your surroundings," Daniel Oquendo said. "When you're going to work – walking to the train – just keep your eyes open."

The response to the boy's disappearance has continued to be overwhelming, but more than two weeks later, there has begun to be some loss of hope.

"Look, it's difficult to be optimistic at this point in time, but we have an obligation to continue to look to continue the search, and we're carrying out that obligation with a significant amount of resources," said NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

But Daniel Oquendo refuses to give up hope.

"Your emotions run up and down, up and down, and the more you do it, you beat your heart up, but you know, you've got to stay positive," he said.

Avonte was last spotted on surveillance video leaving the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, Queens on Oct. 4.

A $70,000 reward is being offered by the group Autism Speaks for information about his whereabouts. In all, the reward is up to about $85,000, 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported.

Since his disappearance, police, relatives and volunteers have blanketed the city with fliers and have combed through train stations, subway lines, and waterways. The nonverbal boy loves trains, according to authorities.

New York City subway riders have seen fliers taped to station support columns, and heard announcements from train conductors urging them to keep their eyes open.

Kelly said police have received at least 200 tips and have checked out 60 registered sex offenders in the area.

The NYPD continues to appeal to the public for any information. Commissioner Kelly told CBS 2 any detail could help break the case.

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