Some are listed as "abducted," others as "runaways" and still more as simply, "missing." However you say it, when a parent realizes their child is gone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is one of the agencies working to bring them back. The center's Mohawk Valley Office is part of that effort. Sarah Blazonis stopped by as organizers get ready for their biggest awareness and fundraising event: The 16th Annual Ride for Missing Children.
UTICA, N.Y. -- This was the flyer that brought Lindsey Ryan home. A kidnapper lured her from her home in Michigan and she was recognized by a delivery man in California.
"She was found 2,000 miles from home because of what the ride does. Those flyers were like a shout from Michigan all the way across the country," said Lindsey's mom, Carol Ryan.
One-point-three million flyers just like Lindsey's were handed out last year because of the Ride for Missing Children. It's the biggest fundraiser for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Mohawk Valley Office.
"We have people coming in from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, all to be part of the work we do here out of Mohawk Valley," said Frank Williams, chairman of the Ride for Missing Children CNY.
That includes sending flyers nationwide and educating school kids.
Lindsey first met her abductor, who turned out to be a convicted killer, online, where anonymity can be a predator's best tool.
"Sometimes the kids can be tricked or groomed by someone pretending to be someone other than who they are. They let down their guard, they may believe them," said Wendy Fical, NCMEC-NY/MV's program director.
Just as important as raising funds is raising awareness. Riders will wear pins with pictures of those who are missing on them in hopes of getting out the word and bringing them home.
Nearly ten years after her kidnapping, Lindsey's mom, Carol, says her daughter is doing great. Both plan to take part in this year's ride.
"Why anyone would ride 100 miles, raise money. It was a very important reminder to me that the world was not made up of the offenders that had violated my daughter, but rather that there were still good people," said Carol Ryan.
There will be plenty of people to meet this time around. Organizers expect 450 riders to take part in the May 18 event.
This year's ride is full, but there are other ways to help. Volunteers are welcome year-round to help distribute flyers and put together information packets, as are donations. To make a donation or sign up to volunteer, call the center at (315) 732-7233.
To learn more about the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, visit their web site at www.missingkids.com.