Jun 19

Why I Run for Missing & Exploited Children

Virna Darling is running the 2014 New York City Marathon with Team Run Baby Run. We talked to Virna about why she runs, and why you should join her! Team Run Baby Run is raising money for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and has seven more spots to fill. Interested in running? Email TeamRunBabyRun@gmail.com.


Virna Darling is a mother, a runner and an advocate for missing and exploited children.

Why do you run marathons?

The journey of running your first marathon starts the first day of training, months before the race. On a hard day you will ask yourself, “Why did I sign up to do this?” There will be rainy or hot days. There will be days you just want to cry and give up. But there also will be days that you feel elated and have that “runner’s high.”

Then the race comes, and it’s just the icing on the cake. When you cross that finish line, there’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that fills your entire body and soul. I do believe anyone can run a marathon with the correct training and the only thing that a person needs is the will to do it.

Why are you supporting the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children?

My cousin David was abducted when he was 10 years old. He was brought home to his family but had a tough time trying to survive day-to-day life after his abduction. I loved him so much. He was a ball of energy. He passed away in 2005. The morning I heard of his death, I fell to the ground in tears. The question “why” kept coming to me. Why do such things happen in the world? Why?

Life is not always fair but it’s what you make of it. I can do my best to bring love and empathy into this world and right now, I choose to do it through running and fundraising. I have found healing and power through running and my intention when I run the New York City Marathon is to bring healing and power to the children and families that have suffered. If the money I raise can be a small part of bringing a child home to their loved ones, it will be a joyous day!

When did you start running?

Running always came easy to me, but I took a break from it through high school. I went through a funny stage where I didn’t like to sweat in gym class, it would mess up my hair!

I had a bout of depression in high school and my counselor encouraged me to start running again. She said, “I want you to run to the end of your street.” I think it was only a quarter of a mile, but the feeling of clarity and satisfaction was amazing!

I think that was the seed that started my passion for physical health, but I really picked running up again in my late 20s. Running came back to me somewhat easily! I worked at a gym and we would get up at 5 a.m. to run. I remember my boss saying, “I could see you being a marathon runner.” I said I could never do that, but would love to. Well, two years later I ran the Portland Marathon. Then two years after that I qualified and ran the Boston Marathon. Now, on to New York City!


Virna runs faster than the camera can catch in a previous race.

What advice would you give to others thinking about running a marathon?

Find an effective training program. I would also suggest trying out a training group where you can meet other runners with the same goals as you.

Follow your training schedule rigidly. Don’t skip your short runs because they are just as important as the long runs. Also, listen to your body. If you need to rest, then rest! We can push through our limits but sometimes you have to be patient and take a day or two off so your body can rest and you will come back stronger.

By joining Team Run Baby Run you will gain automatic entry into the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. To learn more email TeamRunBabyRun@gmail.com. If you can’t join the race but are interested in donating, visit the Team Run Baby Run fundraising site.

Jun 12

Tell us why you give

Every donation we receive comes from a place of hope and caring. Mary is lucky enough to read some of the hand written notes that come along with donations.

Tell us in the comments why you donate! If you don’t yet give but want to support the work we do, give here!

Jun 05

5 Things Parents Should Do During Internet Safety Month -



June is Internet Safety Month! Kids are gearing up for summer vacation and they’ll be spending plenty of time online. This is a great opportunity to make sure you’re doing all you can to educate them about Internet safety.

Here are five things you can do this month to help protect them…

May 29

Social media helps find missing children

As this story from Canada shows us, social media helps find missing kids. We need your help reaching more followers through social media. Tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter to like our page at www.facebook.com/missingkids and help bring more children home.

Just this week, an AMBER Alert was issued in Quebec, Canada when a newborn baby was abducted from a hospital. The child was successfully recovered after a group of teenagers who saw the Alert on Facebook and contacted police.

We share these success stories to reinforce the power of social media. The more people who see photos of missing children and their abductors, the better the chance someone, somewhere will recognize them.

Help us by telling your friends and family to like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on Facebook so they can receive missing posters in their Newsfeed.

May 22

10 ways to honor National Missing Children’s Day

Sunday, May 25, is National Missing Children’s Day. Here are 10 ways to honor families across the U.S. who are searching for their children.

1. Share a poster.

Search for a child on our website and share their poster with your friends and family through email or social media.


2. Take the Pledge.

Pledge to Take 25 minutes to talk to children in your life about safety.


3. Like us on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get updates about missing kids and the work we are doing to help find them.

Tweets by @MissingKids

4. Make sure your wireless AMBER Alerts are activated.

AMBER Alerts have the power to save lives. Make sure the AMBER Alert notification button is activated on your cell phone so you are alerted if a child in your area goes missing.


5. Get a free lapel pin and wear it.

Register for a free lapel pin and wear it to show your support for the families of missing children.


6. Change your profile cover photo.

Start a trend among your friends by changing your cover photo in honor of National Missing Children’s Day


7. Give.

The work we do to help find missing children and keep families safer relies on donations from people like you.


8. Bookmark the anniversaries page.

Bookmark our anniversaries page on your browser and check it often to see updated photos of children who went missing during that calendar week.


9. Make a Child ID.

Make a Child ID for each of your children to make sure you have all the information you need in one place in case your child ever goes missing.


10. Know what to do if you see a missing child.

No amount of information is too small. If you see a missing child or have any information about a missing child, report it to 1-800-THE-LOST®.


May 15

The Pre-Season Safety Talk



You’ve paid the fees and signed the forms. You’ve bought the right equipment, and you’ve found the perfect snacks. You’ve done everything you can to prepare your child for a successful sports season, but…have you had the pre-season safety talk about sexual abuse? 

If not, the following tips can help you address the issue with children ages 5-17 in a non-threatening and age appropriate manner.

Read More

May 09

Three years pass without any sign of Illinois boy

Three years ago, on May 11, 2011, 6-year-old Timmothy Pitzen was picked up from Greenman Elementary School in Aurora, Illinois. Investigators with the Aurora Police Department say his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, told school officials that there had been a family emergency and she had to take Timmothy. But there was no emergency.

Two days later, Timmothy’s mother was found dead in a Rockford hotel, and Timmothy was gone. Detectives say a haunting note was left behind saying Timmothy was safe, with someone who loved him and that he would never be found.


Timmothy’s photo is shown age-progressed to 8 years old.

"The image created by NCMEC forensic artists is an important tool in our mission to help bring Timmothy home,” said Detective Lee Catavu of the Aurora Police Department. As the lead investigator in Timmothy’s case, Detective Catavu says the case of the Cleveland women who escaped one year ago, after a decade of captivity, restored his faith that if Timmothy is out there, he will be found.

“Those three women give us all a lot of hope, and we so badly want to find Timmothy,” Detective Catavu said.

Maintaining hope Timmothy will be found

The lead detective on the case, Lee Catavu, said Aurora Police remain steadfast that Timmothy is alive.

“There is not a single person in her life that believes Amy Fry-Pitzen hurt her son,” Catavu said. And, until he has evidence proving otherwise, he will continue to work the case as if Timmothy is somewhere out there, waiting to come home.

Leads and possible sightings continue to trickle in from callers across the country, but police need more. On this three-year anniversary of Timmothy’s disappearance, investigators are hoping the public will take a closer look at his story and perhaps provide key information needed to help bring Timmothy home.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children created the video below about Timmothy’s disappearance as part of a new project called “The Inside Story.” This new video series gives families a special chance to share their unique perspective about their missing loved ones. In her first on-camera interview about the case, Amy’s sister, Kara Jacobs, tells NCMEC she is certain that Timmothy is alive.

Seeking public assistance

Investigators are asking landowners and residents in northwestern Illinois to search their properties for several missing items that may help pinpoint what happened to Timmothy. Since there are several state parks and other popular areas for outdoor activity in the area, police are asking hikers, bikers, boaters and other visitors to be on the lookout for clues.

Police have shared the following missing items that may help find Timmothy:


Amy bought Timmothy Aquatic Rig toys like the ones above prior to his disappearance.


Amy bought Timmothy craft case like this before his disappearance.


Amy bought her son model toy cars like the ones above before his disapperance.


Amy bought a tube of toothpaste similar to the one above before Timmothy’s disappearance.

Police release information about Amy’s vehicle

Aurora Police contracted a private forensics lab based in Elgin, Illinois, to process the dust, vegetation and other materials found on Amy Fry-Pitzen’s vehicle. According to the forensic findings of Microtrace LLC, detectives believe:


This photo show’s Amy Fry-Pitzen’s SUV.

Police say the last time anyone heard from Timmothy was May 13, 2011, when he talked to a relative on his mother’s cellphone as the pair was traveling about 5 miles west of Sterling, Illinois.

Share Timmothy’s poster on Twitter and Facebook by clicking the button below.


May 07

Concurrent federal investigations bring down exploitation ring

On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.


Brian Bone, Lindsay Costello and Julie Raine of USPIS; Kevin Matthews, Elizabeth Melly and Karen Veltri of the FBI; Melanie Moss of ICE, and Johnathan Bridbord and Christie Gardner of the Department of Justice were honored by FBI Director James Comey for their work to fight exploitaion.

Between 2010 and 2013, three separate concurrent investigations involving the FBI, ICE/HSI, the USPIS, and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, brought down an international child sexual exploitation ring and recovered a child from sex trafficking.

The case started when a user, later identified as Edward Desear, was discovered sharing child sexual abuse images online via a peer to peer network. A separate investigation into an international sexual predator network linked Desear to chats describing the abuse of a child. Following a search warrant, the five-year-old child was placed in the custody of California Child Protective Services. In the meantime, a third investigation was underway on a man named Donn Casper, for buying child porn online. While executing a search warrant on Casper’s residence, investigators recovered a child who was the victim of sexual exploitation. Casper admitted to being a part of an online group of offenders, which led investigators to the arrest of another predator, John Rex Powell.

Knowledge of this “ring” of offenders tied all three cases together.  Members would share tens of thousands of illicit images via encrypted hard drives mailed through the US Postal Service.

In June 2013, Desear was sentenced to 40 years in prison and in December 2013, as part of the FBI investigation, Desear pled guilty to Sex Trafficking of Children and Distribution of Child Pornography and was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison. Desear also agreed to pay $1 million to the victim.

Congratulate the United States Postal Inspection Service, FBI, ICE and Department of Justice.
Tweet #30YearsOfHope

Child pornography producer tracked down in Nicaragua

On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.


Senator Ben Cardin helped honored agents David Bradley, Heather Gordon, Kristopher Nordeen and Tonya Sturgill of the FBI; Jonathan Andrews from the Metropolitan Police Department, and Cynthia Miranda of the Montgomery County Police Department for their work to track down an offender.

On June 9, 2008, Eric Justin Toth, a teacher at Beauvoir, The National Cathedral Elementary School, in Washington, D.C., was alleged to have been involved with the production of child sexual abuse images. Toth was immediately placed on administrative leave, but when investigators arrived at his residence, Toth had already fled.  Toth was subsequently indicted for the possession and production of child pornography and for the next four years law enforcement engaged in a relentless search for him—conducting interviews, enlisting the public’s help by utilizing the television program “America’s Most Wanted” and exhausting leads provided by tipsters. 

Toth was added to the FBI’s Top Ten Fugitive List on April 10, 2012.  He was the first sex offender ever added to the list. In April 2013, a year after Toth was added to the list, the team received a credible lead indicating that Toth was residing in Nicaragua.  After much collaboration between agencies, Toth was apprehended and put on a flight back to the U.S.

Toth pled guilty to three counts of production of child pornography and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Congratulate the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC and Montgomery County Police Department.
Tweet #30YearsOfHope

FBI’s Operation Cross Country recovers 106 victims of sex trafficking

On Wednesday, May 7 we honored law enforcement from across the U.S. for their work to protect children. Check out all the case summaries on our blog.


Jolene Burns (left), Eric Pauley, Kelly Corbally Moorthy and Kurt Ormberg, all of the FBI, are honored by FBI Director James Comey (back left) and Senator Ted Poe (center) for their work in Operation Cross Country.

Between July 25-28, 2013 the FBI Violent Crimes Against Children Section operated a 24-hour command post in support of Operation Cross Country VII. The command post was established to coordinate intelligence and operations with the 76 cities and 47 FBI Field Offices that participated in OCC VII, the largest iteration to date. The command post coordination efforts effectively led to the successful identification, location and recovery of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation through prostitution, as well as the identification and disruption of the criminal enterprises responsible for their exploitation.

Due to the collaborative efforts between agencies, OCC VII resulted in the recovery of 106 child victims of sex trafficking and the arrest of 151 individuals suspected of being responsible for their exploitation. Additionally, 28 search warrants were executed and 101 child exploitation criminal enterprises were disrupted, representing a 32 percent increase in child recoveries and a 43 percent increase in pimp arrests as compared to OCC VI.

Congratulate the FBI.
Tweet #30YearsOfHope