KAREN Gudelj is hopeful that six months of worry and heartache will be forgotten – if only for a few hours – as her family and friends attempt to celebrate the birthday of her missing teenage son.
Zac Barnes should be cutting cakes and drinking VB with the rest of the partygoers at his 19th birthday celebrations on Monday.
But his whereabouts remain a mystery after he vanished on November 13 at Thornton.
So Mrs Gudelj and the rest of Zac’s family have organised a massive shindig at one of his most popular watering holes, The George Tavern at East Maitland.
And the invitation is there for any of the thousands of people who have shown their support since Zac’s bizarre disappearance.
“We just want to celebrate him in his absence and it is an opportunity to meet with everybody who has been following and supporting us,’’ Mrs Gudelj said.
“Zac’s story has touched so many people’s hearts – so many mothers of children the same age have been in contact – and it is a chance to meet with them all.
“I didn’t realise it had affected so many people but I realise so many people don’t want to ring because they feel they are imposing or don’t know what to say.
“Telling everybody that they are welcome to show up is our way of recognising that, and them, and telling them thank you for thinking of us.’’
Central Hunter detectives are still investigating Zac’s disappearance and his missing person file remains active.
It was November 13 and, according to friends, Zac had appeared fine before something triggered him to want to leave a friend's house to get a train at Thornton.
On the way, Zac asked his friend to stop the car and he ran off near the intersection of Haussman Drive and Tripp Close. He hasn't been seen since.
There is still nothing to suggest anything suspicious.
But Mrs Gudelj, who has organised several private searches for her son and is fearing the worst, said she now believed something awful could have occurred to the apprentice bricklayer.
“I have a gut feeling that an accident has happened. I don’t think anything intentional occurred and fear and panic may have stopped people from telling us,’’ she said.
“Maybe the mix on Monday night may allow us to encourage the young people to talk.’’
Mrs Gudelj has asked anyone wishing to attend the George to either contact the pub or herself through the Find Zac Barnes facebook page for catering purposes.
The party starts at 7pm.
Information on Zac’s disappearance should be forwarded to Maitland police station on 4934 0200 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.