NCMEC/NY Ceremony At Oneida YMCA
Oneida, NY (WIBX) - Making Children Safe ... One Child At A Time. That's how the early morning ceremony for the Ride for Missing and Exploited Children kicked-off at the YMCA in Oneida.
The more than 400 riders gathered for the 100 mile ride throughout the county with planned stops at 17 area schools to spread their message about hope of finding those still missing, keeping children safe, and remembering those who lost their lives after being abducted by a predator.
One special guest who spoke at the event experienced first hand about child abductions. His daughter Elizabeth Smart was abducted in 2002. Ed Smart travelled all the way from Utah for the bike ride campaign, and to thank those who worked tirelessly to bring his daughter back home. He said life is getting back to normal for Elizabeth. "Elizabeth has just returned from an LDS mission in France and this coming week on the 25th, which happens to be National Missing Children's Day, is the day that her predator will be sentenced, so it's going to be a very special day for us, it's going to be the end of the nightmare that Elizabeth has lived," Smart said.
Another special guest who spoke at the ceremony is Alicia Kozakiewicz. She was lured from her home when she was 13-years-old by an internet predator. She was held captive in her predator's basement dungeon for four days before she was rescued by the FBI. She said, "It's an absolute miracle that I'm standing here today, and it's so hard to look out and see all these buttons and these posters and think that I'm so lucky that I survived, and it's so wonderful to see all of these people here fighting to give children that chance too--to give them that miracle and that's exactly what they are doing--they're crafting that miracle." Kozakiewicz speaks about internet safety at different schools to bring awareness and education to the cause and hopefully safe others from the same fate she endured.
Alicia's Mom who also spoke at the event said, "When a child goes missing it tares your family apart. There are really no words to even describe the kind of terror--you don't know where your child is, you don't know if they're alive, you don't know if they're hurting--and for so many parents that goes on for an eternity because those children are never recovered, and even their child's remains are never brought home, and that's what we try to prevent, Alicia and I, especially through internet safety, through the Alicia Project."
Smart says it's important that parents make sure they teach their children about personal safety. The ride will conclude this afternoon at New Hartford Rec. Center at 5:45 p.m. Parents will have the opportunity to have their children fingerprinted for safety and have their photo ID cards made. There will also be a reception where the community can meet and greet the riders and learn more about the national movement to protect and rescue children.