‘She Just Wants to Be Free': Vigil Held For Chicago-Area Hiker Lost in Montana

Hundreds of people attended a suburban church service Monday night to pray for the safe return of a neighbor and avid hiker lost in Montana.

While her mom and dad are out of state with the rescue teams, it was standing room only at St. Luke's where a community came together in prayer for River Forest native Madeline Connelly, 23, and her dog Mogi. Family members tell NBC 5 the Oak Park River Forest High School grad is an experienced hiker.

"There is not one of us that doesn't think she's coming home," Elaine Cinkay Connelly, Madeline's aunt, said. She added that Madeline recently spent two nights at nearby Starved Rock by herself.

Madeline had been back, living in the area for a couple months, but the mountains were calling her, family says. She went to Montana to see family, on her way to a job prospect in Alaska when she began the hike Thursday.

"I believe she was intending spending one night out there and come back Friday," Elaine said.

But five days later, Madeline hasn't been heard from. Searchers began looking for her on Saturday around Bear Creek trail where she went missing near Glacier National Park. Her car was found nearby.

"we did have a full-scale search on Saturday," said Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry. "We've continued that throughout the weekend. Both Saturday night and last night. They're back at it today. We've had varying numbers of people. Anywhere from 10 to 15 people actually actively searching."

A family friend, Kate Novelle, told NBC 5 the tracking effort was thwarted Sunday by rain.

"I keep looking at all these grandchildren thinking, out of all of em Madeline is the only one I would trust being out there," Michael Connely, Madeline's uncle, said.

"She just wants to be free," Elaine said.

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