BROOKLYN, Iowa — In some communities the visual reminders of teal ribbons and initials of “M.T.” in downtown Brooklyn would have faded away.
“Those are still up, the teal ribbons are still up,” said Joy VanLandschoot.
Brooklyn residents like VanLandschoot say the impact Mollie Tibbetts left behind years later is striking.
“I think it’s phenomenal that it doesn’t end,” said VanLandschoot.
Tibbetts’ death after disappearing four years ago on July 18th while jogging in her hometown remains haunting. Through groups like Mollie’s Movement her legacy is giving life to others.
“There’s a sadness but there’s also a hopefulness to help other people in their honor,” VanLandschoot said.
VanLandschoot is the groups founder and continues to raise awareness for other missing Iowans.
“What we hope is we can bring more of that impact to other stories,” said VanLandschoot.
Through Mollie’s Movement and Xavier’s Warriors, VanLandschoot helped create countless missing persons fliers, shirts and buttons. Fighting for Mollie and 11-year-old Xavier Harrelson, who went missing last May and was found dead in September, led VanLandschoot to realize the Iowa missing persons database needs to get pictures of missing children out faster and perhaps partner with school districts in order to do so.
“Now how much better are we really doing if yes it is getting reported and then a blank spot for a picture? Who could recognize and find that person and is going to recognize them from the name? That’s a real problem,” said VanLandschoot.
Mollie attended the University of Iowa with aspirations of helping children through their toughest times with a major in child psychology.
“Mollie really started the movement,” said VanLandschoot.
A memorial fund at the U of I Stead Family Children’s hospital has raised over $125,000. Tibbetts was passionate about helping others and theatrical performance. Funds have been used to purchase equipment for art and musical therapy programs to help patients live their best lives at the hospital and beyond.
“I think her love for children is a huge part of it. I think that’s why people want to continue to help children in her name,” VanLandschoot said.
It is a life gone too soon with a spirit that will never die. VanLandschoot said, “Mollie’s legacy will never end and to see people continue to do kind things that she would have enjoyed is really neat to see.”
Since 2018, the Brooklyn community has held the Mollie Tibbetts Memorial Run on the last Sunday in September. The five mile run honors Tibbetts and finishes the route she was unable to.