Florida Commemorates 23rd annual Missing Children’s Day

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 3:44 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - For the 23rd time, Florida commemorated Missing Children’s Day at the State Capitol Monday.

Florida is ahead of most other states in its efforts to recover children when they go missing.

It was a bittersweet day for the families that came. It forces them to relive their tragedy but also allows them to seek solace from the only other people who know what they truly have gone through.

“And we will never abandon the search for missing children,” said Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Rick Swearingen.

Florida had the first missing Children’s clearinghouse in the nation, and of the 25 search teams certified nationally, Florida is a leader.

“Florida is privileged to have seven of those, making our state a model,” said Swearingen.

The board behind the ceremony was created following the 1995 abduction, rape, and murder of Jimmy Ryce. Both of Jimmy’s parents have passed, but they always believed Jimmy would have been found if a bloodhound had been close by, and they made it their life’s work to make dogs available.

“We’ve given out over 700 dogs nationally, in fact, we even have one in South Africa,” said Mark Young, Director of the Ryce Foundation.

While hurt and emotion were on display at the ceremony, it is the same families that come back year after year.

“It gets his picture out there, it’s not an easy thing to do,” said Billie-Jo Jimenez, aunt of Zachary Bernhardt who disappeared in 2000.

Roy Brown has been placing a yellow rose next to his daughter Amanda’s picture for 20 years. We asked what makes him keep coming back.

“For my daughter. You know, I am friends with all these families,” said Brown.

The hope here is that no new pictures will be added to the list of the missing before next year’s remembrance.

FDLE’s Missing Children’s Clearinghouse sent out 19 Amber Alerts last year. Those alerts were directly responsible for the recovery of seven endangered children.