Jake Ziegler Ray Pierce Bandys High School CUE Center - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Teens across NC raise $4,000+ in honor of Jake and Ray

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CATAWBA COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

For many people in North and South Carolina, the story of teenagers Jake Ziegler and Ray Pierce was one of hope and then heartbreak.

The Bandys High School seniors went missing in mid-October on a trip to Myrtle Beach and were found two weeks later in a submerged car in the Wateree River in South Carolina.

Troopers believe the car went off the left side of the road narrowly missing a guardrail, down a steep embankment and came to a stop in the river.

The boys were found by volunteer searchers from the Community United Effort (CUE) Center for Missing Persons out of Wilmington, NC. The teens' families filed a report with the CUE Center on October 14, the day after the teens went missing.

The director of the CUE Center says the organization worked with local law enforcement agencies and searched for two weeks straight, from Charlotte-area down to Myrtle Beach.

In the two week period they were missing, an amazing thing happened in Catawba County that sparked hope around the Carolinas.

Friends, family and complete strangers came together to send well wishes, thoughts and prayers to the missing teens.  They bonded on Twitter through the use of the #FindJakeAndRay hashtag and thousands of people joined a Facebook page for the boys.

Classmates painted the school rock, marked their side-by-side spots in the student parking lot with paint, and held candlelight vigils. They even wore purple in honor of the missing teens, made posters and wrote messages on their cars so people would not give up hope.

In the wake of their deaths, the families asked that donations to be made in the Jake and Ray's names to the C.U.E. Center for Missing Persons.

Since mid-October, teenagers in other North Carolina schools, who were touched by the search to find Jake and Ray, have continued fundraising efforts in their honor.

A teacher at Newton-Conover High School contacted WBTV on Wednesday about an effort that occurred at her school.

"In an effort to do something to show our support, we began by selling ribbons for a 1.00 minimum donation to raise money," teacher Allie Echerd told WBTV. "All proceeds were designated for CUE-the organization that located their automobile."

Echerd said Newton-Conover High football team played against Bandys on Friday night, so they extended our money-raising campaign until after Friday night. 

"When all is said and done, we have raised 400 to send to CUE in memory of Jake Ziegler and Ray Pierce," Echerd told WBTV. "We also decorated our fence to show the fans, family, and friends that we have been thinking about and praying for the loss of their loved ones."

She said that South Iredell High School had also done fundraising for the C.U.E Center as well.

Dawn Creason with Iredell-Statesville Schools told WBTV that South Iredell High School held a student and parent run campaign, selling bracelets to raise money.  The school raised $206.

"This [money] will and has already aided the search for missing persons," Monica Caison from the CUE Center for Missing Persons told WBTV.

Caison says the CUE Center has aided in the searches for missing woman Gayle McCaffrey and missing teen Gabbie Swainson, both from South Carolina, in the past week.

"We appreciate the 'pay it forward' thought of our youth, they get it," Caison said. "Our organization exist today because those we have helped give back to those who will be needing our help and that is what it takes."

She says as of Thursday morning the Center had received $4,288 in donations in honor of Jake and Ray.

"I may be a little biased, but I think that it is awesome that high school students have been so self-less and have decided to reach out to the memory of these two boys," Allie Echerd beamed.

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