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Photo from Gideon Bernstein

Five days since College sophomore Blaze Bernstein went missing in Orange County, California, Bernstein's family and friends have increased efforts to find him by using about a dozen civilian drones on Jan. 7 in the park where Bernstein was last seen.

This was the first day Gideon Bernstein, Blaze’s father, decided to coordinate search and rescue efforts independently from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Since Bernstein went missing on Jan. 2, the Sheriff’s Department has employed a variety of tools in finding Bernstein, including search and rescue missions, helicopters, and trained dogs, Bernstein’s father said.

“We feel like even if we just help out with one percent of the effort to try and find Blaze, and we uncover something as civilians, you know, that’s good enough for us. We have to do everything in our power to try to get this young brilliant man back to us,” Bernstein’s father said.

The drone operators will divide up Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park into zones and each take video and still footage to try and find Bernstein if he is in the wilderness. His father also set up a Facebook group to help consolidate search and rescue efforts and provide information to those hoping to help.

Bernstein's father said he received two independent calls on Jan. 3 at around 5 a.m. notifying him of a potential sighting of Bernstein on a nearby highway. The timeline of the tips and the location of the sightings, his father said, is consistent with where Bernstein would have been at that time.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department tweeted Jan. 7 that the search for Bernstein was continuing.

On Jan. 7, Bernstein was supposed to return to Philadelphia for the start of the semester. Bernstein's father had to cancel Bernstein’s flight the night before, an experience his father described as heartbreaking.

“I know he was really looking forward to going back to school,” Bernstein’s father said. “He missed out on a lot of stuff I know he wouldn’t want to miss. There has to be some reason why — we’re trying to uncover what was going through his head that night, why did he leave home.”

Bernstein was just elected to be the managing editor of Penn Appetit, the student-run magazine on food at Penn. He is listed as a copy associate for Penn Review, Penn's literary magazine.

Photo from Gideon Bernstein

Bernstein was recently hired as a copy associate for 34th Street, and last semester, he also wrote a guest column in The Daily Pennsylvanian criticizing the University's implementation of recommendations from its Task Force for a Safe and Responsible Campus Community. 

Bernstein’s father said Bernstein, on the pre-med track, was planning on declaring psychology as his major when he returned to school. 

“It is mysterious. This is a bright young man who all of the sudden has vanished,” Bernstein’s father said. “I think that’s what makes this story interesting. When you have this person with a bright future, you want to see that future live out."

Bernstein's father said he was grateful for the strength of the community and for all those who reached out offering help and support.

"Do something good for somebody else," Bernstein said of what he would like to tell those who ask to help in any way. "Make a charitable donation to your favorite charity, pay for somebody’s lunch, hold the door, or work in a soup kitchen. Just do something that’s kind to somebody else in this world."