Community holds candlelight vigil for Serenity Dennard

ROCKERVILLE S.D. — Sunday marked 70 days since 9-year-old Serenity Dennard went missing from the Children’s Home Society. On Sunday, community members gathered at the Gaslight to honor Serenity and show their support for the search.

They shared stories about Serenity and the impact that she’s had on communities across the Black Hills. Family, friends, and others gathered to share stories.

“I do think that’s good for people because there’s a lot of people that have been impacted by this, and its a chance to talk and be comforted together,” said Lynne DiSanto, an organizer of the vigil.

Serenity went missing from the Children’s Home Society on February 3rd in freezing temperatures. Since then, officials have conducted one of the largest searches in state history involving hundreds of people following every possible lead.

Serenity’s disappearance has even made it to the national stage.

Last week, in an effort of transparency, Governor Kristi Noem published reports from State Department of Social Services and the Department of Health and Human Services. The reports show the Children’s Home Society failed to execute their plan for runaway children.

Though the home is a private facility, it receives its license from the state.

“That is going to be something that we’re going to continue to evaluate, is how to add more accountability into the licensing program,” said Governor Noem. “What other steps we can take will be assessed, and we’ll go forward from there seeing what legislation is needed.”

It’s currently unclear what those changes will look like. Governor Noem also says that state requirements are only effective if the facility carries them out.

“We’ll do all that we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I know that the Black Hills Children’s Home is taking this situation very seriously. They’ve already made substantial changes and we’re glad to see that.”

But until then, search crews say they are going to continue looking and investigating the case. And in Rockerville at the vigil, the group reflects on Serenity and their own children.

“There’s people that have told me they hug their own children more, they tell their kids more they love them, because Serenity has become everyone’s daughter,” said DiSanto.

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