Even the children saved from a violent father or the girl rescued from a warped abuser will have much to deal with over their lives.
But most of the stories end even more tragically.
And for that reason, concerned residents gathered at the Davis Conference Center to raise funds for the AMBER Alert program in an event sponsored by the Davis Chamber of Commerce Women in Business.
“I’d like to thank each of you who prayed for me, searched for me and used all the resources to find me,” said Elizabeth Smart, who survived nine months in the hands of a kidnapper. “No child should ever have to experience what I experienced. Every child is special and we should all be doing everything we can to protect them.”
Smart’s story was one that ended with her returning to her family and to safety thanks to the involvement of the public.
“It was a miracle day that we will never forget,” said her father, Ed Smart, as he related the story of two people who found her almost at the same time.
“Awareness is what AMBER Alert is all about,” he said, “keeping your eyes open. Nothing can help a child like the overall public keeping their eyes out for the child.”
Awareness is something Elaine Runyan-Simmons has been working to increase since 1982 when her three-year-old daughter, Rachel, was kidnapped.
Rachel had been playing with her brothers at the playground at Doxey Elementary in Sunset when the boys ran over to their mother and told her a man had offered Rachel candy and took her away.
At that time, there was no way to alert the public, the media and the authorities to the disappearance.
“There was no system in place for such a crime,” she said, and the family spent $10,000 in the first three weeks setting up hot lines, going to New York to bring attention to her disappearance, doing everything they could to get help.
“We were stuck in a nightmare that wouldn’t end,” she said, adding that they couldn’t eat or sleep. “It as grueling.”
Twenty-four days later the child was found by a family out for a Sunday drive in Morgan County. Her body was hidden in shrubbery near a small stream. Her killer has never been found.
“So in time you want to do something so this wouldn’t happen to any other child,” she said. She worked to establish the Rachel Runyan Alert system, the Utah precursor to the nation-wide AMBER Alert, and it was one of those alerts that went on out June 5, 2002, the day Elizabeth Smart disappeared.
People are encouraged to get involved by using wirelessamberalerts.com or watching for alerts on Facebook.
The funds raised by Davis County’s Women in Business make up the entire budget for Utah’s AMBER Alert program, which does not rely on tax dollars.
“Awareness is what brought me home,” said Elizabeth Smart. “We should be using every available resource and every spare set of hands... it is so vital to every missing child.”