“She was last seen playing in an area in front of her home. She was last seen wearing a pink T-shirt, shorts with a floral print and tennis shoes with a picture of a mermaid….”
“Brian’s photo is shown age-progressed to 43 years. He was last seen while collecting money for his newspaper route….”
“She was wearing a green rain jacket, a pink Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes. Erica’s front teeth are crooked.…”
“He has not been seen since he went to the Coos County Fair with friends….”
In 2018, there were over 424,000 reports of missing children. Every day, I am reminded of this daunting statistic when I read descriptions like these which accompany the names and photographs of missing children included in Valassis’ Have You Seen Me?® program.
Beyond the promotions and savings Valassis delivers to millions of homes in America each week, is an underlying constant visual. That is the visual of a missing child who is lost, taken, or sometimes has left on their own when they felt they had nowhere else to turn.
I had no idea what kind of emotional journey I was getting into when I began working on this program. It wasn’t until I read about some of these children that I really understood what I was helping to create and the great community service the company I work for was providing.
As a parent of two girls, ages 11 and 7, some days I am scared to let them out of my sight for even a moment, but then I remember that it’s important to let children explore and experience things on their own. I have learned that statistically, non-family abduction makes up the lowest percentage of children reported missing. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), 92% are endangered runaways; 4% are family abductions; 3% are critically missing young adults (18-20); 1% are lost, injured or otherwise missing; and less than 1% are non-family abductions. In fact, while touring NCMEC in Washington D.C. last year, I learned they don’t emphasize “stranger danger” as much nowadays because in many of cases it is a stranger that has helped in the recovery of a child. This was what happened in the case of Wisconsin teenager Jayme Closs that made national headlines. Once she was able to free herself, it was a woman walking her dog that helped Jayme to safety and called 911.
When I read these cases, I often put myself in the place of a parent or guardian who is going through something that must be so horrific, feeling so hopeless about the safety of their child. I feel privileged to play a direct part in a program that delivers hope when I am sure, at times, it feels like there is none.
The Have You Seen Me? program leverages Valassis’ strengths to reach and engage consumers to help in the recovery of a missing child. Through this program, missing children are featured geographically in areas where there is the greatest opportunity for them to be found. I didn’t realize the value of working for a company that also brings compassion and goodness into people’s lives, but it has been rewarding beyond words.
We deliver a missing child’s photo right into the hands of a stranger that can make a difference. We have proven it 163 times over – including two children featured on our products who were found in July! So when you see a photo of a missing child, take a closer look – maybe, just maybe – you will be the reason a searching family and missing child are reunited.