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A Birthday Wish for Serenity


May 12, 2024, is Serenity Dennard’s 15th birthday. 

Five years ago on Feb. 3, 2019, Serenity was last seen at Black Hills Children’s Home, a residential behavioral treatment facility, in Rapid City, South Dakota. Staff members say the 9-year-old was playing inside the gymnasium that morning with a few other children. Suddenly, they saw Serenity run outside and into the cold winter day. 

An extensive search was soon launched with numerous law enforcement agencies and members of the community, making it possibly the largest search South Dakota ever encountered. Black Hills Children’s Home was surrounded by a large, wooded area and harsh terrain, and cold weather and snowfall followed the days after Serenity’s disappearance. These circumstances elevated law enforcement’s concern of Serenity’s unknown whereabouts as they continued to search for miles on end. She was never found and what happened to her is still a mystery. 

Hear from Serenity’s mom, Darcie Gentry. (Credit: NCMEC)

“It has been a mama's worst nightmare to have Serenity gone,” said Darcie Gentry, Serenity’s mom. “I would travel to the ends of the earth to pick her up and to see her again.” 

Darcie holds their special bond close to her heart, and shares that Serenity is a social butterfly who makes friends wherever she goes. “She always liked swimming and road trips, and loved going anywhere,” said Darcie. “She also loved ‘Frozen,’ that was our favorite movie together, I wonder if she still likes it now.” 

two photos of serenity playing with dress up clothes and toys

Photos of Serenity. (Credit: Darcie Gentry) 

It has been five years, and police have not given up. At the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a forensic artist created a new age progression image of what Serenity may look like today. We ask that you take a close look at this photo – it may be the key to bringing Serenity home.

serenity age progressed to 14, smiling with long blonde hair

Serenity age progressed to 14 years old. (Credit: NCMEC) 

Since the disappearance, Darcie continues to celebrate Serenity’s birthday and tries to make the best of it. “I always make a pink and purple cake or a ‘Frozen’ cake, cupcakes, anything she would have enjoyed,” explained Darcie. “And we have a birthday party for her, just like if she were here.” 

Darcie organizes a balloon release each year on Serenity’s birthday and on her missing date. “In every single balloon we write messages to her and always write down my phone number and put that inside the balloons, then we release them.”

two photos, one of serenity playing on a jungle gym in a shirt with a panda on it, one of her looking at the camera and smiling wearing a pink shirt

Photos of Serenity. (Credit: Darcie Gentry) 

NCMEC asked Darcie what her birthday wish for Serenity would be, and without skipping a beat, she threw her arms in the air and exclaimed, “The hugest birthday party she could ever image!” 

And Darcie has one more wish: “I just hope that on your birthday I get to hug and kiss you in person,” pleaded Darcie. “I keep listening for your voice every day. I pray for you every day and hopefully you will see this and know that Mom loves you and wants you to come home.”

two photos of serenity and darcie, the first serenity has her head on darcie's shoulder and the second the two are holding teacups and smiling

Photos of Serenity and her mom, Darcie. (Credit: Darcie Gentry) 

If you have any information about Serenity or her disappearance, please call NCMEC at 1-800-843-5678 or the Pennington County Sheriff's Office (South Dakota) at 1-605-394-6115.

You can view Serenity’s missing poster here: