Missing kids' photos displayed at Valley mall

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PHOENIX -- Every day in America, 2,000 kids go missing. It's hard to imagine the pain a family must feel not knowing what has happened to their loved one.

In honor of National Missing Children's Day on Wednesday, May 25, the Outlets at Anthem is using its giant LED billboard to spread awareness. They have teamed up The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), to show the faces and names of more than 100 children who have gone missing in Arizona or who are believed to be in our state.

In addition to showing the children's faces , the LED billboard will display the message, "Have You Seen This Child?" There's also response telephone number -- 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) -- that the public can call if they have information about one of the missing children.

"We just believe in utilizing the tools we have," said Sallyann Martinez, director of marketing for the Outlets at Anthem. "Why not use this 1,400-square-foot billboard to help make a positive impact in the community and help find a missing child?"

According to Martinez, the huge LED billboard can be seen for a quarter of a mile along Interstate-17 in Anthem. Seen by over 140,000 freeway commuters every day, the LED signs span 1,400 square feet of signage. 

Fingerprinting by the Anthem Sheriff's Posse will be available on-site 4 p.m.-6 p.m Tuesday. The Daisy Mountain Fire Department will also be on hand, sharing tips with parents on how to keep their kids safe.

To get more information on any of the missing children in Arizona, their names, pictures and descriptions are also available on the Outlet's website, www.OutletsAnthem.com. You will also find donation canisters at all of the mall's 70 stores and the food court. Money collected through June 24 will be donated to NCMEC.

According to NCMEC, an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing each year. An estimated one in five girls and one in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before age 18. Yet, only one in three will tell anyone. Clearly, something needs to be done.

NCMEC was born in a time of tragedy. In 1979, Etan Patz, 6,  disappeared from a New York street corner on his way to school and was never seen again. Twenty-nine children were abducted and murdered in Atlanta, Ga. And in 1981, Adam Walsh, 6,  was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and found brutally murdered. There were others. Many, many others.

In 1984, police could enter information about stolen cars, stolen guns, and even stolen horses into the FBI’s national crime computer – but not stolen children. That is no longer the case. More missing children come home safely today and more is being done today to protect children than at any time in the nation’s history.

In 1984, the U.S. Congress passed the Missing Children’s Assistance Act which established a national resource center and clearinghouse on missing and exploited children. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was designated to fulfill this role.

On June 13, 1984, the NCMEC was opened by President Ronald Reagan in a White House Ceremony. The national 24-hour toll-free missing children’s hotline 1-800-THE-LOST opened, as well.

The  NCMEC wants to remind the public that National Missing Children’s Day is May 25.  The organization wants parents to know there are things they can do to keep their children safe and it urges parents to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about their safety as part of its "Take 25" child safety campaign.  

 “We know teaching children about safety works,” said Ernie Allen, president and CEO of NCMEC.  “It is important that parents take the time to talk to their children about safety.”

An analysis of attempted abduction cases by NCMEC found that in 82 percent of the cases, children escaped would-be abductors through their own actions -- by yelling, kicking, pulling away, running away or attracting attention.

NCMEC is the leading nonprofit organization dealing with the issues of missing and sexually exploited children and has played a role in the recovery of more than 163,339 children.