My thoughts today are influenced by what is evolving as we prepare to present the 2008 Operation Kids Lifetime Achievement Award. You first need to know that when we developed the concept of presenting an award, we wanted it to be truly meaningful. Too many organizations spend too much money and resource on “rubber chicken” dinners that end up costing more money than they raise. It is not that the desire to “gather and recognize” in and of itself is a bad thing, but often the best realization of the effort is lost to logistics and expense.
We decided a long time ago that if we put our name on an award and an event, it had to be as efficient as the charitable efforts we support. And I am proud to say that our Lifetime Achievement Award, now in its fifth year, has not only delivered deserved accolades to the recipients, but has also raised nearly $4 million and heightened awareness for outstanding causes and programs. But the point is this:
In preparation for our October event, I have spent the day with some of the great people at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in Washington, D.C. Our 2008 Honoree is John Walsh. Lest you forget “why” he hosts the “America’s Most Wanted” program, and why he was part of the legislation that led to tougher penalties against child abductors and the actual creation of NCMEC, please allow me to share very briefly a story that we will be telling in greater detail on October 11th.
John and his wife Reve` were living a happy, normal life when their six-year-old son Adam was abducted in 1981. Adam was murdered by a child predator and, in a particularly unkind twist of fate, the man suspected of the abduction and murder, died in prison where he was serving time on another charge. The truth about what happened to Adam died with the prime suspect. But this unbearably tragic story has taken John and his family in a very interesting direction.
Jump ahead over 25 years from this unspeakable tragedy and know that John Walsh, through his efforts on America’s Most Wanted will in the next few weeks be responsible for capturing predators and closing 1,000 cases. Thanks to John, 1,000 families have received the closure and justice that his family never did. And the reality of that number takes on even greater significance when you personalize each story.
I don’t know where John found the strength to do what he has done since losing his son. I suspect it is that same drive within anyone who dedicates their life to trying to help kids. People like John know at some level, that they cannot ‘right every wrong’ or ease all the suffering, but they must know that they are at least trying. I think of the quote, “I cannot do everything, but I can do something…” John’s success with the TV and radio program, and his efforts on Capital Hill have really done…something. This is why we are so proud to honor him in October, and it is our deepest hope that along with the honor and recognition, we will also be successful in raising awareness and over $1 million to help fund the ongoing work of NCMEC.
If you get a moment, visit the America’s Most Wanted site and spend some time learning the names and stories of the children saved through this effort. It is a sobering, yet wonderful experience, and you will leave there grateful for John and aware of the fact that the work is nowhere near finished.
If you want to help, get in touch with us. We would love to hear from you.