Sunday marks the 41st birthday of Maya Millete, the Chula Vista mother who has been missing for more than a year.
"Just the hope of being able to find Maya inspires us to keep going. Day by day,” said Melissa Huk.
Her friends and family held a birthday celebration in her honor on Fiesta Island.
“I believe she was like an earth angel she just called you. You see her picture and you want to search for her and you don’t stop,” said Melissa Noland.
According to Chula Vista police Millete was last seen on Jan. 7, 2021.
“We want to be here because I know this is how my sister would want to celebrate her birthday,” said Maricris Drouaillet, Maya’s sister.
Drouaillet says this is exactly what Maya would love: a simple day at the beach surrounded by loved ones.
LISTEN: NBC 7's newest podcast dives into the disappearance of May 'Maya' Millete. Click here to listen and subscribe to "Vanished: The Maya Millete Story"
However, the beautiful celebration represents only a moment of relief. Their family has endured 17 agonizing months without her.
“It’s been a nightmare. It’s a rollercoaster feeling. The thought of not knowing where she is…where she’s at…is really unbearable pain.”
Drouaillet says despite their overwhelming grief, they maintain hope that they will find Maya and bring her home.
“She knows we’re doing everything we can to bring justice to her.”
Millete’s husband was named a person of interest in this case. He was arrested in October in connection with her disappearance.
He is expected to appear in court later this month.
You can read more about Maya Millete's ongoing case and disappearance here.