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.