Wednesday, August 31, 2005

8/30/05 Katlyn's Home!

Today was a day that cried out for happy news. As the devastation continues to unfold in New Orleans and other Gulf communities, hundreds of miles away, in a small town in Nebraska, a mother and daughter were reunited. Katlyn came home, and her mother, Shelly, no longer has to live in the "not knowing".

Now they begin a new journey together. The reunification process is not necessarily an easy one. There are new emotions to deal with and a healing process that has just begun.

Their story is no longer a public one, but a private one, unless they choose to share it. What matters to us is that she is home.

We will be there to support them as long as they need us. For those who acted as our angels on earth for Katlyn, we thank you for your help and for your kindness and generosity.

Welcome home, Katlyn.

The original story about Katlyn and Shelly can be seen here

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

8/30/05 In the Eye of the Hurricane

Their safe world has been stripped from them.
They feel as if they are in a never ending nightmare.
It is surreal.
It is painful.
They are traumatized.
They are numb.
They may not know what to do and how they should feel.

I am describing two events.

One is the impact of Hurricane Katrina.

As another day dawns on the cities of the Gulf, the near total devastation becomes more apparent. As the stories start to surface, we who are on safe ground come to know only a slice of the pain experienced by those effected by the storm.

No one could possibly know at this point just how many lives have been lost.

Soon, we will start hearing about families seeking loved ones who were separated from them in the storm, or who have not been able to make contact with them yet.

Stories of the storm can be found at

We have already heard stories about bodies floating in the water. How many of them will not be identified for a period of time? How many will never be identified? How many will never be found at all, their families left to live the rest of their lives always wondering, always hoping that maybe that person just had to step away from their former life for a moment in time.

I wish that they all had ID Kits, but that is highly unlikely. If they did, they could get a much faster ID on an unidentified deceased loved one. I always suggest to take the completed kits for all family members and place them in a large, thick envelope. This envelope should then be placed against the inside wall of the freezer, which would still be salvageable in most cases.

We all think this is something that happens to someone else, not us. Be prepared by downloading and printing an ID Kit for everyone in your family at

We will hear stories of joyous reunions, too. If they don't already know it, people will learn that those whom we love are more important than possessions.

It may take time, as the basics of food, shelter, and clothing must now be obtained.

The storm has passed and soon the repairs of both physical items and the heart will begin.

I mentioned in the beginning of today's post that I was speaking of two events.

In the second, the people effected are still in the eye of the hurricane. It has not passed and will not until they have the answers they seek. It is a limbo of sorts.

The second event is living life when someone you love is missing.

The difference between the two is that for the most part, the thousands upon thousands who were dealt a blow from the storm will recover. Life may not be the same as before, but they will have their loved ones nearby.

In the meantime, we'll pray for all of the victims and their families. We'll pray that they receive the needed supplies and that they can keep their hope alive and bodies strong as they travel this road.

Our prayers will continue for those who have a missing loved one and who reside in the "eye of the hurricane", waiting for the storm to pass.

Their safe world has been stripped from them.
They feel as if they are in a never ending nightmare.
It is surreal.
It is painful.
They are traumatized.
They are numb.
They may not know what to do and how they should feel.

Friday, August 26, 2005

8/26/05 Going on a Retreat

I'd love to be able to publish one of my stories for you, but I am preparing for a trip today.

I'm off to Phoenix for the TEAM Hope retreat. TEAM Hope is an organization under the NCMEC umbrella that matches volunteers to family members of the missing. The volunteers have all had or still have a missing loved one in their life. They provide resources and support via scheduled telephone contact. Along with my work for Project Jason, I also carry a small caseload for TEAM Hope.

I use my own experiences to help me be an effective support person and advocate, but I also learn a great deal from the professional training provided by TEAM Hope. This weekend will be jam-packed with training sessions, as well as relax and focus time for me.

It is a difficult thing to bear the burden of having a missing person in your life. When you work with the families, it can sometimes be like reliving your own horrors all over again. I have looked in the eyes of family members who were facing those first extremely frightening hours and I could see myself all those years ago. I remember the first time I ever had a face-to-face referral. That next day, I felt as if I'd been run over by a truck. I realized it was because of the internal replay that happens.

TEAM Hope taught me how to take myself out of the equation when dealing with our families. For whatever reason, this is one of my gifts in that no matter what the situation, I can be a neutral, but yet truly understanding support person. I can tap into my experiences and leave my emotions out of it. To let my emotions enter into the conversation is to cease being effective. It is, after all, their needs that I am charged to care for, not my own.

In that I am very human, I do have moments of great sadness. Sometimes there does not seem to be anything in particular that triggers it. It is just there. I find solace in my family. We have a special bond that may have not existed before.

I was driving my 17 year-old son home from school the other day, and we were talking about Jason for a moment. I'm not sure what led to me saying this, but I told him that if he ever became missing, I wasn't sure if I would be able to handle two such losses. Before I could even finish my sentence, he gently admonished me for saying outloud that he could or would do that with any intention. Of course, I don't think he would, but it is a fear. I'm sure I am not alone in that.

God is my number one refuge and support. He is always there. He asks me to walk the rocky path on my own, but occasionally He does carry me through the many twists and turns we deal with. I know that when He does leave me to walk on my own, there are life's lessons for me to learn along the way.

I will be back on Tuesday. If you haven't yet read all of the stories in the blog, take the time to do so in my absence.

Thank you for spreading the word about our blog and our needs: striving to find a way to create awareness for our families' missing loved ones, despite media's disinterest. We also serve to educate the public about the missing.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

8/25/05 The Little Nonprofit That Could

I was doing some reminiscing this evening.

I had the blog on my mind and my campaign to build readership. Readership is what will make this blog a success. Because of the nature of our battle, we need the eyes of America upon us. We need them to see the faces and to put themselves in the shoes of these families. Time after time, it is proven that awareness is what will bring them back home. If we have 150 steady readers, that is a good thing, but we need so many more to be effective.

I watch the daily averages and am seeing a good, and slightly upward trend. I see more and more repeat readers, which is what we need. I have asked and will continue to ask you to spread the word about this blog. Send it via email, place links on websites, and post it on forums. Send it to your friends in the media, too.

Being the underdog does not deter me. I believe that if you have a dream and take steps to make it come true, even if these are small steps, you can accomplish anything.

Project Jason started with a trip to the bookstore in June of 2003. I carried out with me a book called "Nonprofit Kit for Dummies". I spent that summer researching the steps to take on the Internet and in other books.

In my reminiscing tonight, I remembered the press release that I sent out to commemorate Project Jason's one year anniversary, which took place last October. As a part of filling in the pages of this book called our cause and our life, I will share that press release with you.

The Little Nonprofit That Could

Like The Little Engine That Could, nonprofit organization Project Jason's founder Kelly Jolkowski did not let a lack of funds or knowledge of how to start an organization keep her from completing the task, and thus creating a legacy for her missing son, Jason. The organization now celebrates one year of assisting families of missing persons nationwide.

Omaha, NE October 6, 2004, Project Jason will become one year old. This is the day last year when they became a corporation in the state of Nebraska, with 501 (c) 3 status also effective on that day.

Mission Statement:

"Our mission as a non profit organization is to create and increase public awareness of missing people through a variety of outreach and educational activities. Project Jason seeks to bring hope and assistance to families of the missing by providing resources and support."

Kelly Jolkowski tells about the beginnings of the organization: "It's hard to believe that it was only just last summer that Project Jason was just a nameless dream in my head. After having fought in our state legislature for 2 years and not succeeding in getting Jason's Law passed to assist families of the missing due to budgetary issues, I knew there was something more I had to do to follow what I felt was God's calling for me. I was not going to wait another 2-3 years for our bill to pass. (Project Jason will take up this battle again in 2005) It came to me that I could start a nonprofit organization to fill the gap until such time as the law was passed, and then to complement it afterwards. Even though I had no idea how to go about doing this, I knew I had to go after the dream.

I know these words belong to another, a powerful voice in history, but they rang in my ears, too. "I had a dream....." While my dream was not the same, it once was a dream, and now is a reality. It's difficult to call it exciting, because of the nature of what we do, but yet it is exciting to have watched it unfold before my eyes over the last 12 months. The fact that Project Jason exists because of my own missing son, Jason Jolkowski, is bittersweet, but yet it is also joyous that his legacy could impact so many."

During the past year, Project Jason has either distributed in person or through downloads on our website at, well over 5,000 free personal ID Kits. They added a Spanish language translation and have recently rolled out a revision of the kit. The organization emphasizes how important it is for persons of all ages to have an ID kit. "Becoming a missing person has no age barrier. If we are loved by another, then we need to have a kit." Kelly explains.

Besides offering support and resources to families, education and prevention, Project Jason has carved a niche in the field in terms awareness programs. After the clues on a case have been sifted through, often awareness and hope is what the family has left. They feel that they offer both to the families served with the available programs.

Project Jason's original awareness program, the 18 Wheel Angels, is going strong with an estimated 7,000+ posters distributed nationwide. This program entails recruiting truck drivers and business travelers to place posters of selected missing persons along their routes. Additional information is available at

More fruits came from this program and their alliances in the trucking industry. They have been featured in several trucking publications such as "Women and Team Drivers". Project Jason also works together with another publisher, JB Scott, to feature one missing person per month on the cover and inside page of their magazine, "Through the Gears". The magazine has a circulation of 150,000+.

This summer, Project Jason went out on the road. Representatives drove to Scottsbluff and back on a tour of Nebraska. Governor Johanns declared State Missing Persons Week starting on June 13th, which marked three years since Jason Jolkowski disappeared.

They logged close to 1,700 miles and gave out over 1,400 free Project Jason Id Kits over the course of a week. It was on this tour that the organization introduced their newest awareness program, Adopt a Missing Person. Families of the missing send in photo buttons of their loved one, along with a personal bio. The person who chooses to "adopt" any one of these missing people wears the button and shares that story with others to bring about awareness for that person. More about this program can be seen here:

The Adopt a Missing Person program has been featured in several stories across the country including Omaha, NE's KETV, KYC, Cleveland, OH, The Montgomery AL Advertiser, and the Greenville News, SC.

In the past month, their website has averaged over 300 hits per day. Board members were then very pleased to find that they were a featured link on a national news story about the ignored missing persons cases. They were featured alongside of some of the "big guys", as seen in the gray links box in the MSNBC story here

Kelly Jolkowski was also featured in a national story about woman advocates for missing persons.

The Jason A. Jolkowski Scholarship Fund has been established and will award a scholarship to a learning disabled student in the Omaha, NE area this school year. 2,400 free missing person labels were mailed to families this week as a part of Project Jason's Internet Angels program.

Project Jason has assisted more than 50 families, offering support and resources, as per their mission. They have seen several come home and be reunited with their families.

"I have personally learned so much this year, not just about running an organization, but about issues pertaining to our cause. I continue to learn and grow and try to find new ways to help those whom we serve. I've also learned so much from all of our families about faith, perseverance, and love of family and life. I feel it is such a privilege to serve. I am blessed in so many ways, including having a wonderful group of people serving along side of me on the board. Without their efforts behind the scenes and support of me, Project Jason would not exist.

There is yet another dream, and this is the dream that all families of the missing share: I have a dream that one day my son will stand before me, and as I look upon his face, I must remind myself that it is real, and that he is here. I reach out my arms to him, and we embrace, and I cry such tears of joy as the world has never seen.

For some this dream will become reality soon, and for others, it will be a longer wait. My comfort comes in knowing that the dream will come true, I just do not know when and where. May the families we assist also find comfort in that knowledge.

Please keep us in your prayers, but even more importantly, pray for the missing and their families."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

8/24/05 It's Not About a Bike Ride

This past May, I was invited to participate in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's 10th annual Ride for Missing Children. I was so moved by this event, that upon my return home, I spent several days writing this story.

I'm going to publish part one here, and then provide you the link to read the rest of the story. It is long, and for those interested, it may take you several sittings to read it all.

I have been told by men and women alike that it is a "Kleenex" story. Hopefully, it will aid in your understanding of what we live through and why your support means so much to all of us.

When you follow the link to the story, at the bottom of each page, you will see a "next page" link. You may have to scroll down to find it. I don't do windows and I don't do websites, although I have been known to take a crack at the latter.

Here is part one:

My Ride for Missing Children 2005

In Words and Photos
By Kelly Jolkowski

Dedicated to my missing son Jason

Wherever you are, my love goes with you…………..

Part I

My story began long before my airplane touched down in Syracuse, NY. It began on a warm summer day in June of 2001. That is the when I last saw my missing son, Jason. So many events have transpired since then. So many changes, so many heartaches, but yet so many joys and experienced blessings.

I first met Frank Williams, chairman of The Ride for Missing Children, at the 2004 New York State Missing Person's Day in Albany, NY. NYS Missing Person's Day is an annual event sponsored by Doug and Mary Lyall's organization, The Center for Hope. Frank was the Keynote Speaker that year, and he mentioned that he did the Ride for Missing Children, which "raises posters", as he put it, for the Mohawk Valley National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) branch office.

This branch office's primary function is the production and dissemination of posters for missing children. The fundraiser ride is the annual effort to continue their great success in the location of children through these posters. Cyclists raise money to go on the 100 mile ride through this beautiful central New York country. The NCMEC mission is: To make our children safer---one child at a time. Those words were on the back of our jerseys and repeated throughout the day.

After Frank spoke at the 2004 Missing Person's Day, I chatted with him and told him that I also biked. He invited me to come to the 2004 ride, but it was short notice for me, so I declined. He then asked me to come in May 2005 as an honorary rider, and I gladly accepted. In 2004, Kate Alcott rode in honor of Jason, as I could not attend. I would end up meeting Kate in 2005, and she was partnered with me as she is an experienced rider. Kate also arranged to get me a suitable loaner bike similar to mine at home. I looked forward to finally meeting her.

The day before the ride, I boarded my flight on the way to Syracuse. It was a smaller airplane, so there was only one flight attendant. I noticed her right away because she was beaming, and there seemed to be no particular reason. I sensed she was a person who found joy in her work, her life, and in people and that it was truly genuine. I observed her assisting the passengers and going well above and beyond the call of duty. I had never seen a flight attendant like her. She gave advice to a couple traveling with a young child, and she seemed to have a sixth sense for who might want a pillow or a blanket. She took special care of the older passengers, but yet did not neglect any of the rest of us.

At some point during the flight, a thought popped into my head that I could not get rid of no matter how hard I tried to dismiss it. I felt compelled to get all of the passengers involved in a tribute to the flight attendant. I found myself taking out a piece of paper and penning this note: "This flight attendant does such a wonderful job. Wouldn't it be neat to recognize her in an unusual way? Just think of how it would make her feel. Even if you are not a fun-loving person, try to think of it as an experiment in human behavior. Please pass this note along quickly"

I went on to explain: "When the plane comes to a stop and she stands up, start clapping. Point at her and smile so that she knows we are clapping for her. Don't miss this opportunity to do this for someone else. Why not? Just do it!!"

I folded up the piece of paper and gave it to the flight attendant and asked her to give it to the woman in row one. I knew she would not look at it and would give it to the woman, thinking that I knew her. She did, and I watched to see what would happen. I waited and waited and did not see the note coming my way. I thought it awful that this attempt failed at the very first person!

I was about to give up when I saw the note moving back and forth coming down the aisle. When it came to me, I read it as if I did not know what was on it. I showed it to my seatmate. He smiled and started talking to me. He had not uttered one word before that point. I wondered if he saw me writing it, or if something else sparked a desire to talk. I saw one man shake his head about the note as it went by, but I saw more people smiling, and those smiles grew broader as we came closer to landing. There seemed to be an air of anticipation on the plane. I could hear the young girls behind me asking each other if it was going to happen.

The plane touched down and taxied to the gate. The flight attendant stood up, and it seemed as if time stood still. I was determined that I was not going to start the clapping. I waited and did not hear anything other than the drone of the engines. I groaned inwardly. Suddenly, a chorus of clapping started somewhere in the back and moved forward like a wave. The flight attendant appeared rather surprised, and smiled that bright smile of hers. She then went right back to work. As the passengers disembarked, there was a light feeling in the air. I grinned as I went by her and then walked off into the terminal.

You might wonder what this has to do with the story, just as I wondered what possessed me to do something like that. I discovered the meaning of it all during the next 24 hours.

The complete story can be found here:

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

8/23/05 “I Love You, Mom…See You Later”

Those were the words that Donna Parent heard when she last saw her 32 year-old daughter, Brandy Hanna, on May 20, 2005.

How long is later? Is it an hour? Is it a day? Is it a week?

For Donna, it’s been 3 months and 3 days. It must not be “later” yet, because Brandy is still not home, and nor has anyone heard from her.

Donna and Brandy have a close relationship, further cemented by the fact that they work together at the same restaurant. This heartbroken mom tells us in her own words of the darkest day of her life: “The day started out normally. Brandy called me several times wanting to know what time I would be at the restaurant where we work. She was at work, but always waited to see me before she went home for the day. When I arrived, she was in a great mood so full of life, cutting up with the customers as usual.

When Brandy smiled, it would melt my heart at how beautiful my baby girl was. This day was like all others. We chatted, and I set up her voice mail on her new phone. When she was ready to go home, she kissed me said, “I love you mom…see you later”, and out the door she went. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see my little girl. I talked to her several times on the phone after she got home, and then I became busy in the restaurant. Brandy said she was going to watch some TV. I tried to call her later that evening, only to get her voice mail.

I had a really bad feeling that I couldn’t shake that something was seriously wrong. I went home when I got off work, and told my husband. He told me that I worried too much and that she was a grown woman and was fine. I tried to call her all weekend as she was off on weekends. She had told me she had plans with her boyfriend, so I kept telling myself she was with him. I went to her apartment on Sunday, the 22nd, but she was not home.

Brandy was scheduled to work Monday, the 23rd. I woke up at 7:18am. I looked at the clock, and thought to myself; “Okay, work has not called me, so she’s there.” No sooner had I thought this, then the phone rang and my nightmare began. Brandy was not at work.

I called the police that Monday to report my 32 year old daughter as missing. The officer would not take a report until I had called the jails & hospitals. Then my nightmare became worse as I tried to convince the police that she had not just ran off, or was out doing drugs. How does a mother explain to a person that does not know their child that something bad has happened, especially when the only thing you have to go on is what you’re feeling in your heart, and your mother’s instinct?”

The nightmare had begun for Donna and her family, in both senses of the word. “I work until I come home and I am so exhausted. I can go to sleep, but then the dreams start. I cannot be alone for any amount of time. When I am alone my mind goes to thoughts I cannot bear to think about. I feel someone grabbed her & hurt her. My greatest fear is I will never see her sweet face again. I deal with this by working a lot & doing anything to keep my mind from going there which is almost impossible.

I get up every morning hoping today will be the day I hear something, anything, about my daughter .It has now been 3 months. I pray to God every day to give me the strength to make it through another day. I think about my daughter every second of every day, always wondering if there was something I could have done to prevent this. There’s always the “what ifs”. This is something you never expect to happen to your family. The not knowing is the worst feeling you could imagine. You have no closure, or any way to have any peace in your heart. It just breaks more every day. As my niece wrote: “Cherish every day…. you don’t know what tomorrow may bring”.

I do not feel like I have a life. I just go thru the motions the best that I can until I know where my daughter is. My life is at a standstill and my focus is on finding Brandy. My husband is used to being able to fix things for me, and this is something he can’t fix. Brandy’s brothers miss her and worry about me constantly. I worry a lot more about where they are and if they’re safe.”

Donna didn’t remain at a standstill for long. She picked herself up, dusted herself off, and decided to fight for Brandy. Despite media rejection and attitudes about missing adults, she was now prepared to find the help she needed. She started locally with flyers: “We have made flyers and they are posted all over town. They are in our car windows. Every time I get in my truck, I see Brandy’s face. Several of our customers have her posted in their car windows, too. I will do what ever it takes to keep her face in the public’s eye. The flyers are posted in many businesses in town, including the restaurant where we work. We have several stores that are run by this company and all of the stores post her picture.”

The media now faced Donna’s fighting spirit: “I wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper wanting to know why Brandy was not important enough for them to run a story on, but yet they could cover the girl in Aruba so much, even though she was not in this county. This prompted them to run a very nice story on Brandy on the front page .If I can keep Brandy’s face in the public eye it gives me hope someone may have seen something & come forward .I feel God created us all equal, and all missing persons should be given all the publicity they can. If this were done, more of these cases may be solved. I feel the resources need to be spread out. My daughter is just as important as anyone.”

Amen to that, Donna. Why indeed are so many hours and countless dollars spent on just one person? Where are the big name search teams and the night after night coverage on the news for Brandy? Is she loved any less? Does Donna not deserve a chance to find her daughter? Think about that.

Next, Donna moved to doing Internet research. She found the Center for Missing Adults, and then she found Project Jason. After my initial conversation with Donna, I put out an urgent notice for assistance for Brandy to my peers and good friends in the “business”.

Because of her locale, I urged Donna to pick up the phone, and call Monica Caison, of the CUE Center in Wilmington, NC. Among other things, Monica’s organization is experts on search and rescue. (SAR) Now Donna had some momentum going. She had her search “angels”: “Monica Caison came to town on August 8th. I was so excited, and yet so scared at the same time. She came with 4 other volunteers and 6 K-9 dogs. This group of people came in and worked so hard assisting the police in the search. The whole group was so kind and respectful of my situation. They went out every day, even though the temperature was 100 degrees and higher. Monica called a press conference on Tuesday and all 3 local stations were there. Two of the stations had already run brief stories after my sister and I emailed and begged for their help. I feel Monica and her group were sent to me by God. They are truly God’s angels. I will always be grateful for the help they gave.”

Empowered by the help given her, Donna struck a cord with the local law enforcement. “We as a family were worried about the case being put back on the back burner. When Monica left, my brother-in-law proceeded to tell the detective that if he thought I was going to back off, he’d better think again. There is no way I will ever stop looking for my daughter. The Detective informed him he had come to know me, and he knew I would never give up. I will keep charging like a bulldog. I am a mother who would do any thing it takes to find my child.”

And now, Donna will get to see her daughter’s face for the very first time on national TV. Brandy’s photo and information will be shown on the Larry King Live Show on Tuesday night at 9pm EST. Monica Caison is a guest on the show, and she will show several other cases which do not get national recognition.

Donna wants us to think about this: “We have to make people aware of the hurdles we have to cross to get people to pay attention to our missing children. Even though they are adults, they are still our children.

Look into your children’s eyes, hug your children, or just to sit & talk with them. Think about how you would feel if you never had the chance to do these simple things we all take for granted, until something like this happens .Think about the possibility of never knowing what happened to your child and having to live with that thought every day of your life, always wondering.”

Once, in a newspaper interview, my husband referred to me as a bulldog, and they printed it. I was not too thrilled about being referred to as a bulldog, but I had to admit that I exhibited those behaviors. What matters most is what we do for our children, not how we are referred.

I know Donna will keep charging forward until the day she hears Brandy’s sweet voice greeting her: “Hello, Mom. I love you.”

For additional information about Brandy, please see

Monday, August 22, 2005

8/22/05 “Oh Ashley, Ashley”

Scarlett O’Hara utters those words in the epic “Gone With the Wind”. She spends most of the movie thinking that she loves Ashley Wilkes, pining away for him, and being separated from him.

I love the character of Scarlett. She is gritty and determined. She goes to the extreme if she has to in order to accomplish a task. I feel I can relate to her, although I certainly don’t intend to do things to the point of scandal, like the Scarlett in the movie.

There is yet another “Scarlett” in this story, and this one is also separated from her Ashley, whom she does love dearly. Our “Scarlett” is also very determined, and has no intention of ending her quest to find her Ashley. I suspect she goes to sleep each night calling out “Oh Ashley, Ashley”. However, this is no movie. This is real life for Tammy Navinskey of St. Joseph, Missouri, not a movie that will end in a few hours. Her daughter, Ashley Martinez, now age 16, has been missing since July 6, 2004.

I compare Tammy to Scarlett because of her sheer determination and drive to find Ashley. She is one a handful of moms I know who, on a daily basis, seek out new places on the Internet to place a photo and information about their missing loved one in the hopes that he/she will be found. In addition to constantly seeking out new awareness tools, Tammy also has taken up a battle with the state to increase the age of consent.

This latest battle of Tammy’s comes because it is believed that Ashley left the state with a 32 year-old convicted felon, Christopher Hart, who lived near the Navinskey’s home. Hart was eventually arrested in Washington and brought back to Missouri, but Ashley was not found with him, nor did anyone in Washington see her. Hart is in prison, and he is not talking. This is Tammy’s biggest frustration. The one person who holds the key to the mystery of Ashley’s location refuses to cooperate. It is also Tammy’s biggest regret in that she did not realize that Ashley was seeing this man. She fears that he may have sold her into prostitution or harmed her. Another “wild card” in Ashley’s story is that she suffers from bi-polar disorder, and does not have her medication with her. What part does that play in this awful, seemingly endless movie?

On July 6, 2005, Tammy, and her husband, John, held a prayer vigil at the location where Ashley was last seen. They invited me to come and speak, which I was glad to be able to do for them. Family, friends, and the people of St. Joseph gathered to remember and honor Ashley and to give hope to her parents.

I observed at the vigil that our “Scarlett” is loved deeply by many, and also has an unselfish, generous side to her. I was very touched by the fact that she asked what she could do for me and for Jason, my missing son. So did some of the townspeople. I sent them some posters and a few of his photo buttons from the Adopt a Missing Person program. Even in the midst of her tragedy, Tammy still reached out to help others.

Photos of Ashley, and some of her favorite belongings were placed lovingly on a table at the vigil. A candle of hope burned for her, and served to light the candles of all who came to be with the family. We came to know Ashley through Tammy, and want to fight to bring her home, too.

Even through her tears, this dedicated mom shares her daughter’s spirit, hopes, and dreams: “Ashley Martinez is a very beautiful young lady with a great sense of humor. With some of her cute sayings that she comes up with and her beautiful smile, she can brighten up anyone’s day from the moment she enters a room.

Ashley wants to be a model when she grew up and she is beautiful enough to succeed with this dream. Ashley enjoys drawing, reading, talking on the phone, and spending time with her friends. When she would have her friends to our house for a sleepover they would spend time in her room putting on make up, painting fingernails, and fixing each other's hair. Ashley also enjoyed watching movies about teenage girls or love stories, like the Titanic. She and I would often watch some of the lifetime movies together.

Most of Ashley's enjoyment was centered around her family, friends, and pets. She has two brothers, an older one and a younger one, who miss her so much. Her friends still often call and check on her and us. They also miss her so much. Her pets miss her so much too, and the love that she gave them was wonderful. Two months prior to her disappearance, Ashley had picked out her very own kitten and named him herself. She chose a long haired gray kitten and named him Coco. He was very small when she disappeared, but now she would be so surprised of how large he is.”

There are, of course, life lessons to be learned from what has happened to this family. Tammy recognizes this, along with the changes that have some along with the trials: “Yes, a very big lesson and one I will never forget or repeat. You never realize how precious people are until they are gone. Don't get me wrong, we always knew that our daughter was so special to us, but when you get caught up with jobs, bills, and unexpected occurrences you tend to overlook what is right in front of your eyes. We have always tried to show our children our attention and love, but when something like this happens, you find yourself wondering if it is enough and if we ever get that opportunity again, we will never wonder if it is enough.

My husband and I have come to realize that not only does our daughter need us, but we need her just as much. We always knew that we loved Ashley so much, but never realized, probably because we were so busy being parents, that you need your child just as much.

This is the hardest impact on my life that I have ever had to deal with and I can speak for everyone in our family when I say that none of us will ever be the same. We are surviving to bring Ashley home, but we will never really "live" until she is home and I know that she is in a safe environment.

Our family was a normal fun loving family before July 6, 2004. That day changed our lives forever, a day we will never forget, and it could happen to you. I have always read and seen photos and information about missing people, but never did I dream that someday our daughter would be one of the missing people. Without warning, a family is living the life of the missing, and it could happen to anyone, so please take the time to help. Never take for granted that it wouldn't happen to you because you never know and, unfortunately, our family and so many other families are living proof of that.

Everyday I work to contact the media, nonprofit organizations, talk shows, and editors of magazines with hopes that they will display Ashley's photo and information out for public view. I feel that these efforts are helpful and some are very hard to achieve, but also gives families of missing loved ones hope that their loved one will return. This hope is what gets us up everyday and continue our search, and we will never give up, not until Ashley is home.”

Tammy and Ashley used to watch movies together, movies like “Gone with the Wind”.

In the movie, Scarlett proclaims: “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again.”

I can easily picture Tammy saying: “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll have my Ashley back home.”

We can help bring an end to this nightmare of a movie that Tammy’s family is living through. No matter where you live, go to Ashley’s website, and print a poster to place. Give this family the gift of hope and remember that as Tammy said: “It could happen to you.” Let’s not let tomorrow be another day without this Ashley back home where she belongs.

Ashley's website:

Sunday, August 21, 2005

8/21/05 A Day in the Life of …

…, as I go about my duties for Project Jason. This is what a typical day is like.

I wrote and sent out a press release for Mark Hamilton. You can read his story in the archives. It is called “I Long to See Your Face”. I sent it to 3 TV stations and 2 newspapers in St Louis. I also included the link to his story here. I just cannot fathom how someone could read that and NOT see the powerful human interest story within. Yes, I know I am biased, but surely those of you reading who do not live in the “not knowing” would agree. I told them it was the story of a hero, (Major Lowery) and of a mother who cannot forget her son.

And for those of you who have been following along, we did not get a single response from our press release about the missing deaf-mute black girl, Porcia Evans, from Washington, DC. I even sent out a reminder. The media in Washington, DC might be silent, but her mother will not. You will read her story in a future post.

I worked on writing some new segments and updates for the website. We’ll be showing you some new faces of the missing soon. We also are planning our fall calendar, which includes two local public events, as well as some fundraisers. I made a few phone calls to start the ball rolling with those. When we go to public events, we give out a wide range of safety brochures, our Personal ID Kits, and we also offer our Adopt a Missing Person program.

Speaking of the Adopt a Missing Person program, I did get a request in the mail. Thank you, Kim from Wisconsin for adopting Shania, Suzanne, Georgina, and Amanda. I will be mailing this to you tomorrow. For more information on our Adopt a Missing Person program, and how you can help the families of the missing, please see

A family contact emailed me about doing a press release very soon for a missing teenage boy. I called her and we spoke at length about the nature of the press release and the areas to target. She will be getting back to me with more details so that I can write it.

I spoke with 3 mothers of missing persons during this period of time.

With one, we talked about her plans in regards to action taken in her daughter’s case. We also had a conversation about the lack of media coverage for missing persons who do not fit the tight criteria of the national networks: pretty, female, and often blonde. She is working on this in her local area. Bravo to her and good luck!

The second mom is in the process of writing her blog interview questions for a story here. Some things have happened recently that she is going to add. I also think that many of our moms, once they get over the initial shock of losing the person whom they love, they often spring into action, and won’t stop on a dime. I told her she needed to write about that and to pour her heart out. She agreed.

And then finally, the third mom, who has a missing son, called me for advice on not only the search efforts, but on dealing with the day to day emotions that come with the territory. Her son has been missing for over a year, but she had never spoken to someone like me. I could hear the relief in her voice. It poured out in waves which matched the tears that also came.

People in her life are trying to tell her how she should feel and what she should do in regards to those feelings. They all mean well, but no one can tell someone who goes through this how they should be feeling. I gave her several suggestions, and emphasized that no matter how she was feeling, it was perfectly normal. I gave her suggestions that could help with feelings of anger, helplessness, and anxieties. It turned out that she had plans on doing something similar to one of my suggestions, and it was perfect for her circumstance. Her phone disconnected, she called back, we talked for awhile longer, and she cried some more. She needed that cry, I am sure of that.

A man with a missing father sent me an email asking for our help. It was a situation in which many years ago, the non-custodial mother took the children away from the father. I believe it had been 25 years, and now the man was trying to find his father. Police would not take his case because of the adult aspect of it and the time frame. I suspect they considered it to be a “lost touch” situation, especially in that the son did know where his father was a few years ago. He was long gone when the son found out his father’s whereabouts.

It breaks my heart to tell him that unless he has an open missing person’s case on file with a law enforcement agency, we cannot help him.

I explained this to him in my response, and in addition, gave him several suggestions on what more he can do: “I do want you to know that we do care about all missing persons, however, our hands are tied when it comes to "officially" helping in cases when the police will not take a report. Because of laws pertaining to the privacy and rights of adults, and the fact that adults can become missing if they so desire, we cannot actively help. What could happen is that that person, if he/she saw we posted their photo, or is taking other steps to find them, could take legal action against us. One such lawsuit could bring an end to our organization and the assistance we give to thousands of missing persons.”

He had attached some photos of his father that were of poor quality. I used a software program and did some brightening and cropping and attached them to the return email.

I probably answered about 50-75 emails throughout the course of the day about various cases and issues.

I went to bed at about 1:30am, which is actually early for me.

I’ll be back late tonight with another story.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

8/20/05: Beating Around the Bushes

Sheila Holland and Dana Ames spend their spare time beating around the bushes, literally. These two sisters head a Texas based SAR team, URSAR, which stands for United Response Search and Rescue.

Back in March of 1999, 6 year-old Opal Jennings was abducted while playing outside with her friends in Saginaw, Texas. It took nearly 5 years, but little Opal was found. Sadly, she had been murdered by Richard Lee Franks, a convicted child molester.
It was Opal’s case that spurned the two sisters into action. URSAR was founded in 2003 in memory of Opal. Dana and Sheila’s team assisted in the search for Opal, whose family is still actively involved and supports the sisters’ efforts.

Not only do these two work to reunite families of the missing, but they also each deserve the title “Super Mom”, since they both work other jobs and are devoted to their husbands and children. Sheila also has 6 grandchildren to spend time with.

This fall, Sheila and Dana will make another 6 hour drive to Lubbock to search for Jennifer Wilkerson and Joanna Rogers. (Please read “The Lovely Ladies of Lubbock, Parts I & II” for the stories of Jennifer and Joanna, located in the Archives.)
The long drive is nothing new to them, as they have made this trip 7 times in order to find these missing women. They recruit hundreds of volunteers to help with the searches, utilizing volunteers from the community, team members, family members of the missing, law enforcement, and other agencies geared towards disaster relief or social services.

Sheila explains the resources behind a typical SAR, and how it is executed.

“The information supplied by law enforcement, or the family will generally tell us if a search is warranted. There are usually some facts that are known, such as the person was last seen walking down Willow Street, or the ex-husband or boyfriend had been making threats, or a strange vehicle was seen outside the house.

As soon as our organization receives the request to do a search on a missing person, we swing into full action gathering as much information about the missing person, and the circumstances involved in their disappearance as possible. We inform our members, and volunteers of the search. We generally alert the media of the missing person if law enforcement has not done this, and request help of the community. We map all areas of interest out, and establish an area to use for a command center during the search. We must determine in advance what recourses are needed, and plan accordingly in order to properly execute the search. A location, time, and date or dates are then publicized.

We offer air search capability, canine search teams, dive search teams, ground search teams, ATV search teams, mounted search teams, food, water, shelter, flyer distribution and crisis intervention.

Since our inception the team has grown in size and capability, currently consisting of approximately 100 + members and more than 2000 volunteers. United Response Search and Rescue Team currently consist of active and retired Law Enforcement Officers, Homicide Detectives, Swat Team Members, Medical Examiners, Paramedics, Fire Fighters, members of the U.S. Marshall’s Posse, Military Reserve Personnel, retired Navy Core personnel, Forensic Osteoligist, Forensic Psychologist, Criminal Justice Students, Certified Public Safety Divers, Swift Water Rescue Divers, Aquatic Crime Scene Investigators, Pilots, Vet Techs, as well as other trained SAR specialists.“

Sheila and Dana don’t give up easily when it comes to these searches. Some have even lasted for a very long time. “Each search is different, and must be treated as such. The amount of time spent on each search varies greatly depending on resources and information available. Some of our searches have ended within 45 minutes after the search began with remains, or the person being found, and others have lasted several days, months, or years,” Sheila explains.

When they are in the midst of the search, numerous concerns go through the sisters’ minds: “Will we find our missing person? Is the person we are looking for still alive, and in what condition? We wonder what the missing person may be going through, or has gone through, and how much time has lapsed. We’re also concerned about the weather conditions for searching, the well being of the family, the safety of the search for the volunteers, and where else we could search if needed. The possibility of having to break the news to the family and volunteers that we have to call off the search if we don’t find the missing person is a difficult thing.”

And indeed, the hardest part of what they do is when they have to call off a search. “We exhaust all efforts to find the missing. After searching all possible places of interest, and chasing down any information that might be available, if we do not find the missing person we are looking for, we must call the search, and notify the family. Seeing the absolute fear, panic, and helpless desperation in their eyes is always overwhelming. It just breaks our heart to not be able to give the family those answers they need, and bring their loved one home. Keeping the morale of the volunteers up, after a fruitless search is just as overwhelming at times. We all want to find our missing, and bring them home, no matter what the circumstances may be.”

The group once discovered the remains of a man within 50 yards of his abandoned vehicle nine months after he was reported missing. URSAR located his remains within 45 minutes of being on the property. Sheila admits one of the toughest things about her job is to make this sort of discovery: “The family helped on this search and it was so sad to see them so upset, because he could have been found months earlier. The vehicle was originally found within a month of his disappearance and other agencies searched the area and were not able to locate the gentleman. We had been contacted by this family after seeing us on the news while we were performing another search in their area.”

There is, however, joy in the sisters’ work, which they do for free. “We also help families to search for runaways. We were able to locate a 15 year old girl that had run away from home after an argument with her mother. She had been gone for a couple of days before we were contacted. The mother had exhausted all her resources to locate her daughter. We were able to locate her through her friends at a drug house (after a reward was posted). We were able to get assistance from Law Enforcement and had her removed from a bad situation. We were then helped the family get the necessary counseling that was needed to help this family to heal.”

The URSAR Mission Statement is as follows:

“United Response Search and Rescue Team will provide search and recovery crisis intervention service for missing and abducted children and adults of all ages and backgrounds. The Organization seeks to provide these services so that no family will ever have to suffer alone while faced with such an unexpected tragic event. We will do this with compassion, dedication, professionalism, and expediency. Our primary objective being the safe return of a missing loved one to their family. Until there are no more missing children or adults, until all people who are lost, runaways or victims of crime are found – we will be there to help.

We will also provide preventative educational awareness programs, and identification programs that will educate children, parents, families, teachers and law enforcements in the community on how to prevent abductions and what to do with critical information on reporting a loved one missing.”

A simple, but yet powerful response summarizes Sheila and Dana’s drive and resolve: “We have dedicated to these families (Jennifer and Joanna’s) that we will continue to search until they are both found.”

I can tell you that if I ever needed someone to beat around the bushes for me, I would want these two on my side, and by my side, supporting me for as long as I needed it.

You can learn more about URSAR and Sheila and Dana’s efforts at

Friday, August 19, 2005

Tracking Violent Sex-Offenders

Steve Huff, author of the Dark Side and Twilight Kingdom blogs, is asking for our feedback in regards to a post he made on his Dark Side true crime blog.

The post discusses the tracking of violent sex offenders who are non-compliant, thus being free to harm another child.

Steve gives a good example of this in the case of Joseph Edward Duncan, who murdered several members of the Groene family of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho less than a month after he absconded.

I think he's on to something here.

An Inspiration

They say that one person cannot make a difference in the world, but what about one person who is not even with us? For that person to make a difference is truly a miracle.

These are words that I wrote about my missing son, Jason Jolkowski. Sometime after his disappearance, we started our nonprofit organization, Project Jason. In his name, we are able to reach out and potentially make a difference in the lives of thousands or people. We consider that to be a blessing and a miracle.

I would like to share with you the story of how one of our awareness programs was born. Come Home is the first ever national missing person's locator program that seeks the missing among the homeless. We feel confident that a large number of the homeless population are reported missing people. In our situation, we must be creative in trying to think of new ways to create and foster awareness.

I worked with three families of missing young men who suffered from mental illness. I would ponder over and over, asking myself: "Where are they?" What is the common thread between being missing and having a mental illness?

One night I was looking at websites on the Internet. I was not looking at anything related to what I do in my work for the missing. I was on a site and saw links to the right of the screen. One of them indicated it was a site that contained a list of a large number of homeless shelters. I do not know why, but I felt a need to click on that link. The second I clicked on it, I knew that this was the piece of the puzzle I had been searching for in the cases of the missing young men. This was exactly how we needed to connect the dots between the homeless and the missing.

It was no coincidence that I had found this page at this moment. Everything happens for a reason.

Over the course of the next few hours, I devised a plan to build a database of homeless shelters and soup kitchens nationwide. We would have bi-monthly campaigns of missing persons who could be among the homeless and have those shelters display those posters. We went to work to build the shelter database right away, utilizing a team of 25 volunteers. The Come Home program has been in place since February of this year.

While we have not located a missing person directly because of one of our posters, we are confident that we will. We also do not know the ripple effect the campaigns may have. Other homeless persons, upon seeing the posters with the personal messages written by the families to their missing loved ones, might be encouraged to contact their families. The campaigns also give the dual and sustaining gifts of hope and awareness to the families of these missing persons. When I speak to families when their loved one is going to be on the program, you can hear the lift in their voices and in their spirits. Hope is what keeps us all going day to day until our loved ones come home.

Remember when I said that it may seem impossible for one person to make a difference in the world, especially one who is not even here?

We know that is not true. You see, one of the three missing young men who inspired the Come Home program is Michael Jarvi.

James and Kathy Jarvi share with us some thoughts about their son, Michael, who has been missing from Naselle, Washington, since March 24th, 2002.

“Michael is a fun and caring son who always has a smile on his face. He loves camping, fishing, and family outings. He hoped to be a top computer programmer. We always tried to have a family outing at least twice a month, which meant a lot to us. Now it is very hard with us missing one. We also miss our walks together along the beach.”

Kathy tries to keep busy since Michael’s disappearance. She even started to volunteer at a local soup kitchen once per week. Michael had been spotted there at one time. Even though he was never seen there again, Kathy felt that helping the nameless homeless who went through the line, was, in a sense, helping her own son. Still, there is sadness, fear, and frustration.

“We don't know what happened to him. Our greatest fear is foul play, and the only way we can deal with it is to hope he is somewhere living happily. It has been a terrible impact on our lives, always wondering, always looking at strangers, wondering if they have seen him, hoping he is warm and safe. Hoping he will through the door someday.

There is a part of our family gone, and we can only hope it is not forever. It is frustrating not knowing where our son is, and why no one has seen him when we have put flyers out and continue to do everything humanly possible to find him. The only thing that could end this frustration is to find him.

What we learned is that you should always hold your family close to you, take many pictures, and never take anything or anyone for granted. Enjoy each day as it comes. Sometimes you take people for granted and that they will always be phone call away, that's not always true.”

When we started the Come Home program, Michael was the featured missing person on the first campaign. We had a press conference here in Omaha to announce the program. All four of our television stations came to the conference, and gave us excellent coverage. Michael’s face was all over Omaha, but yet, back in his home state, there was silence from the media. We can only keep trying.

James and Kathy, you have hope in your hearts that you will see Michael once again in this life. I can tell you that your hope is justified. Take comfort in the fact that even if you do not see him in this life, you will in the next. We are eternal creatures, and our existence here is oh so very temporary. May that knowledge bring all of you joy.

“We see Michael living somewhere and is happy, although he cannot remember who he is, but he will remember someday,” Kathy expresses with a lift in her voice.

I wish that I could hug Michael and thank him for all of the families who are effected by this program. I would want to thank him for giving these people the gift of hope and for bringing about a little miracle in the lives of others.

Remember that love is a bond that is never broken regardless of time or distance. It is everlasting, just like us.

...And we know that we will see him again.

To read more about Michael, please visit

To learn more about the Come Home program, please see

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Long Time Ago in a Place Far Away.........

.............when life was "normal", I was web surfing one night and stumbled across a website about a little girl who was kidnapped from her California home in the middle of the night and then murdered.

The father of this child had written a lengthy journal that chronicled everything from the time of her disappearance to the discovery of her body, to the arrest and conviction of her killer.

I started reading the journal and could not stop reading it. I read it as often as I could over the course of the next few weeks until I had finished it.

At that time, I had no idea of the personal tragedy that I would go through many years in the future. I paid no attention to missing people in the news and had no idea that such a problem existed. I think I was like much of America, believing that it happened only to an occasional victim of kidnapping I saw on the evening news.

I was so touched by this man's story that I felt compelled to email him. I was very surprised to get a response, as he had become a well known missing children's advocate. I was sure he was too busy to respond to emails from passerbys like me who had nothing more to offer than an "I'm sorry".

For some reason, I printed and saved that email response. I just now reached into the file where I kept it, and sure enough, it was there. It was dated June 30th, 1996. Five years later, I would know some of the horrors that this loving father experienced.

Now, nine years later, our paths intersect again, and instead of me reaching out to him with a kind word, he reached out to me to help with my missing son, Jason.

Because of his kindness, Jason's photo and information will be shown on the Nancy Grace Show on Friday, August 19th. The show airs on CNN Headline News at 7pm CST, and repeats at 9pm and 11pm. (subject to scheduling changes)

The little girl who was taken from her father all of those years ago was Polly Klaas. Her father, Marc, started a foundation named after his daughter which will help protect children for generations to come, He also founded , an important resource for parents and law enforcement.

This is just one of many stories, that when looking back upon them, it becomes clear that I was being prepared for future events.

Thank you Marc, for sharing your private agony with us, so that we can understand and desire to reach out to others, and thank you too, for helping my family.

That is also what this blog is about.

In the "Miracle Worker", doesn't Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher, lament: "How can I reach her? How can I make her understand?"

Am I reaching you, the reader, and helping you to understand?

Looks can be Deceiving

A friend sent me this link today:

It's a very brief test to see how well you do at identifying serial killers versus respected computer programmers.

The same scenario applies to sex offenders. It doesn't matter how they look, but how they behave.

I guessed 7 out of 10 correctly.

Please note that the old method of teaching "Stranger Danger" to children is out.

We're going to get more in depth on this topic in a future post.

Tonight, we had our monthly Project Jason Board of Directors meeting. There are many good things going on behind the scenes that we'll share as soon as we can.

I'll be back Thursday night with another story of a missing loved one.

In the meantime, make sure you don't let the day pass without telling someone you love them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Let No Stone Remain Unturned

Looking for a missing person can sometimes be like looking out over a sea of stones. It is vast and it appears infinite, although it is not. The seeker walks upon this sea of stones, overturning one now and then, searching for the one that will reveal the answer to the question. Where is the lost one?

The seeker continues to turn the stones, and none yet yields the desired results. As the seeker walks this path, he starts to realize the task he is faced with. His back aches from bending over and his arms become stiff from lifting the stones. He is exhausted, mentally and physically. Despite these pains, he continues on.

Some call to him from beyond the sea of stones. They tell him to stop and that it’s useless; there are just too many stones. They beg him to stop because they think that he may pick the right stone, and that when he looks underneath it, he may find an answer that he (and they) do not want to see. They are afraid.

What is better: to have loved and taken the risk of being hurt, or to have never loved at all? We cannot stop experiencing what life holds, both the good and the bad, any more than we can stop breathing and yet continue to live.

Life is not just about us, in fact, it is about everyone else. There are many who stand at the edge of the sea of stones. They watch and they wait. Sometimes they enter the sea and pick up a stone themselves. Some of them call out encouragement to the seeker and some of them provide much needed nourishment and sustenance.

To choose the stone that bears a frightening answer is not what the seeker desires. The stone has already been placed, and what lies underneath cannot be altered, it can only be overturned. The stone may contain an answer that brings great joy to all who love the lost one, and it may not.

They all have a share in the search in their own way, and because it is a quest of all those who love the one who is lost, no one person can dictate the number of stones to be overturned. For the ones who fear, they cannot allow their fears to conquer them. They will be comforted and come to understand that they must allow for the good of the greater number. Just as the powerful love of the seeker for the lost one gives the seeker the strength to go on, those who fear must let love guide them.

In this circle of love for the lost one, the others reach out to those who fear, grasping those trembling hands into their own warm, steady ones. Together, and with renewed strength, they look out upon the sea of stones. The seeker pauses for a moment, and looks back to see the united front. His arms feel lighter and his back relaxed in that moment of understanding.

When the time comes for the right stone to be overturned, then it is that same love that will sustain us if the answer is a hard one. However, that stone may also yield an answer that warms our hearts. No matter the answer, we seek because we love. We do it for the lost one and we do it for all of those who love him. We cannot limit the number of stones to be upturned any more than we can tell someone not to love, or to love less. We can thank God for the greatest gift of all, love.

My Note:

This is a piece I wrote in response to a question asked by a family we serve. They were struggling with the emotions that we who live in the "not knowing" deal with on a daily basis.

It has since been published in the National Center for Missing Adults newsletter, and I also used it as the basis of my keynote speech at the New York State Missing Person's Day this Spring.

New to This Blog?

Thank you for visiting our blog. It's not like any other on the Internet.

This is a grass roots effort to bring awareness for the missing persons who are not featured on the national news. Some are not even featured on their own local stations.

Awareness is key to location of missing persons. so we encourage you to keep reading, and send our link to all of your friends and family.

Just in case you've never read a blog before, if you notice over to your right, there are Archives listed. If you click on the Archives, you can go back to the beginning of our blog, and read all of the stories.

You'll also notice a Comments button below each post. If you are registered with Blogger, then you may post a comment.

If you are not registered, and have a comment, you may email it to Due to the volume of email, you may not necessarily receive a reply, but do know that we appreciate the fact that you took the time to write to us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Happy Birthday, Please Come Home

I’m sure we can all remember Neil Sedaka singing “Happy Birthday, Sweet 16”. Most of us will be able to clearly hear that tune inside our heads.

Kathy Holloway remembers her daughter’s Sweet 16 birthday party. She wishes she could return to that time and place once again. It would, after all, mean that she would be with her daughter, Jennifer. Instead of those happy lyrics, Kathy’s would be “Happy Birthday, Please Come Home”.

It’s Jennifer’s birthday today, but there won’t be any singing in Kathy’s home. It’s the second birthday since Jennifer Wix, now age 23, along with her daughter, Adrianna, disappeared from Springfield, Tennessee on March 25, 2004.

To have lost one person you love in this ambiguous manner is painful enough, but what about two? What happens to a family when something so devastating happens?

Kathy’s answers to those questions are brutally honest.

“My entire life has changed. My former career has ended. My other children do not have the Mom that they once had, and my husband does not have the partner that he had to share his life. I get emotional and have trouble interacting with small children. It is a challenge to hold my job. It is very difficult to handle the pettiness that is associated with the public in my work.

None of the family is the same. There is a certain amount of division. Some want to move on and act as if it is just another day, and others are completely absorbed by what is happening.”

There are other frustrations and fears that tear at Kathy’s heart.

“Jennifer has no resources to live, and a small child to care for. There are suspicious circumstances surrounding the days prior to her disappearance and the people who were the last to see and talk to her. There was also a very heated argument and confrontation.

I do not believe that Jennifer ran away. I do believe that someone harmed them. My greatest fear is that I will die and never know what happened to my precious girls and that they will never be found and that justice will never come to the ones that harmed them.”

Kathy had received a phone call from Jennifer that was frightening. She could also hear Adrianna crying in the background. That would be the last time she would hear her girls.

Little Adrianna was the light of Kathy’s life, but Kathy doesn’t want to say “was” anymore, she wants to say “is”.

“When you look into Adrianna’s big blue eyes you can't help but love her. Her eyes are magical! She has a little wagon that one of her baby dolls came in, each day she would ask Mimi (her nickname for Kathy) to pop corn for her to put in a bowl and haul in her wagon around the house. At the end of the day her wagon would be loaded down with all sorts of snacks! She and I would snack from her wagon all day! Of course, she had to feed the snacks to me!

When I think of her, I first see her beautiful eyes and her smile that can light up any room. There is so much that I want to share with her. I miss her in my life so much!”

In order to bring Jennifer and Adrianna home, Kathy needs an aggressive detective who will not give up easily. She needs a person who will thoroughly investigate those last days before Jennifer and Adrianna disappeared, and the people they were with. She also needs to help and cooperation of everyone in the community, and the media.

Kathy also needs for people to understand what we go through. Perhaps if everyone did, we wouldn’t have to ask for help.

“Put yourself in our shoes, just for five minutes. Have you ever had a child hide under the clothing rack in a store, run ahead of you towards traffic, or have their school bus run late bringing them home? Imagine that feeling that you had then as the feeling that you have everyday, from the time you open your eyes until you are finally able to close them at night. When you tuck your child in tonight, imagine them not being there when you go to wake them in the freeze that moment...........that's it, everyday, all day, over and over.........”

I have been with Kathy on this walk since nearly the beginning. We have never met in person, but have spent numerous hours talking on the phone.

Where there once was a woman who struggled to get through the day, there is now a woman who has become a fighter.

Kathy writes on her website: “I am trying to make sense of why that people, speaking in general terms, do not seem to care what happened and do not want to "get involved". To those people, I say, if this can happen to my children and my family, it can happen to yours.

Just imagine what a difference that could be made by people uniting and standing up to the murders, abusers, pedophiles, rapists and abductors. We have to stand together in order to make a difference in our communities. I urge anyone who is interested in standing with me to at least try to make a difference,
contact me, please!”

Kathy has launched national media campaigns and writing campaigns to state officials, begging for help with the case. She has worked tirelessly the keep the girls’ name in the public eye with her website, local news media, prayer vigils, a balloon release, a public concert, posting and mailing flyers, and attending public events. There is also a billboard on I-65 South, just north of Nashville.

Kathy tells me she wants to make a difference, even if it isn’t for Jennifer and Adrianna.

Jennifer’s Sweet 16 birthday party is a memory precious as gold to a Kathy.

“What a wonderful, magical day this was! We gave Jenn a surprise birthday party, and all of her family and friends were there. There was lots of food, cake and ice cream, and a bonfire to set the country mood. Everything was so beautiful, but especially this young lady that stood before me all grown up looking!

Everyone brought Jennifer wonderful gifts, but to her the best gift was having everyone around her. Jennifer loves being with her family and friends. She is very rooted in her family and community. This is where she likes to be, with the people that she loves. That is why that I just know that if she were able to be here for her birthday, she would be here. I have very little doubt about this.

I wish that it was possible to go back. I would go back to that Sweet 16 Birthday and mold it into my memory so as to never forget one second. I pray that we have the chance to celebrate Jennifer's day with her again.

My birthday wish for my precious daughter is that wherever you are that you have peace and happiness and know that you are so loved and missed.

Happy Birthday, Jenn!

I love you,

Kathy’s Website:

Monday, August 15, 2005

How Can I Help?

Yes, you can help. You can make a difference for these families. So don't just think about it, do it.

I will repeat this post monthly for new readers.

Poster placement has been proven to be one of the most valuable tools in helping to locate a missing person. One of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's branch offices specifically deals in poster dissemination. Last year, out of a little over 1000 campaigns, over 600 children were located because of these posters!

We have links to printable posters in many places on our site, both on the 18 Wheel Angels page and on the Come Home page. On our forum, you can also find links to printable posters.

You can also participate in our Adopt a Missing Person program. For the price of a self-addressed stamped mailer, you can choose one or several missing persons to adopt. You will be sent a photo button to wear and a personal bio, so that you can share their story with others. Wear the button on your purse, backpack, or coat and give these families hope that they will be reunited.

We also need your help financially in order to continue our work. The competition for charitable dollars is fierce and small nonprofits such as Project Jason depend strictly on the generosity of the public. We are an all-volunteer force. There is no paid staff and little overhead. Our phone bill is one of our largest expenses.

I dislike posting this because I never want to give the impression we're all about money, but the realities of it are that we just don't get many donations. We have many, many plans we would like to bring to fruition, but it's going to take money to accomplish those things.

So, if you like what we're doing, please help. If you would prefer, please take a look at the good missing person's organizations in your area, and help them. There are many of us who are small and struggling. I know of one who came very close to getting their phone shut off for non-payment.

Donations can be mailed to:

Project Jason
PO Box 3035
Omaha, NE 68103

Thank you for anything you can do for our cause!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Good News Sunday

The majority of the time the phone calls I receive are not of a positive nature. It's wonderful to get a call from a family with good news to report. It's even better to get two calls in a row like this.

The first call was from Tom Zachman, Jennifer's father. You can read her story in the "Hometown Girl" entry, and the follow-up post. Tom shared with us that Jennifer is still in the hospital, and she is doing "remarkably well". I could hear the dramatic change in his voice as compared to all of the other times we spoke. I could easily hear the joy in his voice and in his heart. We'll pray for a speedy recovery for Jennifer.

The second call was from Megha Verma's uncle. I spoke of Megha in my post on July 27th, entitled "Partly Cloudy or Party Sunny". You can read it in the July Archives link to your right.

Megha's uncle reported that Megha was found yesterday. She is unharmed and healthy. Although I had never spoken with him on the phone, it was clear from his uplifted tone that the family is relieved and so very grateful to have their Megha back.

If only every day could be like this one.

The Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

Wanda Schmitt will accept nothing less than the truth, no matter how painful. She has been waiting for over a year for this truth to surface. That is how long her brother, 42 year-old Jeffrey Dale Nichols, has been missing from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jeff was afraid of something or someone. He told his family and friends this, but yet no one has been able to get to the bottom of this truth, the mystery of Jeff’s disappearance.

“I wish we knew what to do. Actually for the first month, I felt paralyzed. I couldn't get out of bed. I kept thinking I would wake up and he would be back,” Wanda shares the realities of this experience. “It was hard to watch the media attention on Lori Hacking. Jeff had disappeared just before she did from the same city. I knew that the situation was completely different and the police had reason to suspect foul play from the beginning. During this time I prayed for her family.”

While Wanda prayed and started research on the Internet looking for missing person’s resources, Jeff’s co-workers banded together and wrote testimonies, trying to convince anyone who would listen that there was more to Jeff’s story.

“Jeff's case is such a mystery. Here is a wonderful young man, father, son, brother who vanished. His life was going great. Jeff had a great job, wonderful son, loving family, and a good relationship with his girlfriend,” Wanda explained. ”Everyone who knows Jeff does not believe he walked away from his son, his job, or his family. He had so many positive things in his life he was looking forward to.”

Wanda was right in that those who knew Jeff did not believe for a moment that he left willingly. His co-workers, people who knew him for years, were quite sure there was more to the story.

“One truly remarkable thing about Jeff is his loving, caring relationship with his son. In the years I have known Jeff, he has given up a higher paying job and relocated several times to accommodate his son. Jeff lived each day for his son. The only way he would not be with his son would be against his will.” L.S.

“I spoke to Jeff several days before he disappeared. We talked about a staffing study and other work he was doing for the Tower. There was nothing unusual about his demeanor or behavior – no nervousness or anxiety.” L.W.

“Jeff was very stable. I saw him the afternoon before he disappeared and he said he would see me early the next day. Jeff would not disappear willingly. He loved work and his son; he had long-term plans at work.” K.W.

The morning of Jeff’s disappearance, June 8th, 2004, Jeff was planning on meeting his ex-wife before he went to work. Phone records indicate he was in the area of the planned meeting at 6am. On July 15th, 2004, Jeff's truck was towed from the same neighborhood in which he was going to meet his ex-wife. Jeff’s bank accounts and credit cards were never touched.

As they had no proof of foul play in Jeff’s case, it was difficult to convince the authorities that Jeff would not leave of his own accord.

Wanda relates the difficulties that go beyond emotional issues: “The feeling of being powerless is very frustrating. No one would listen when we told them Jeff was in danger. It would help if law enforcement was trained to better deal with missing person cases. By the time they realize something’s wrong, it's basically too late. Weeks and months are gone, and any evidence gone.”

Despite the hardship in dealing with the loss of someone you love in this manner, Wanda has been open to learning from her experience. “We realize the incredible amount of strength we actually have. My husband has been wonderful and supportive of the tremendous amount of time this has taken from our family. Some families would not have been able to deal with this but I think it's actually brought us closer. We are here to support and love each other.

I have also become more aware of my surroundings. I actually look at the people around me as I go about my daily life.

Life is precious, don't squander it. You need to stay positive and have hope that you will find your loved one, or find out what happened. Having a missing loved one is living with loss every day: a loss that doesn't go away. When someone close dies, there are rituals with a funeral or memorial to help you say good bye. You feel the loss but you have closure. When you don't know what happened, it's so hard to move on. You live with the ambiguity of this loss. You try to remain hopeful that your loved one will one day walk back into your life. It's like a roller coaster ride of emotions that you can’t get off.”

“One thing that Jeff loved was life. I know he would want us to enjoy our families and the lives we have before us. I think it would upset him if he thought he was the cause of such distress in our lives.” Secure in her knowledge of what her brother would want of her, Wanda chooses to live and love life.

After her aunt died, she found this writing from an anonymous author among her possessions. Now Wanda keeps it with her everywhere she goes, ever mindful of her brother and the love they share.

"Believe in Life, Not Loss

Believing in Life means we can trust-trust in nature and rhythm of life with all its constant change. We believe in transformation, change, and purpose.

Believing in life means we're not in bondage to the past. No matter what we've done, what decisions we've made, we set ourselves free to trust ourselves now. We trust what we feel, we trust what we know, we trust what we think we need to do next. Believing in life means we trust that the lessons we're learning are real. They're valuable and Divinely ordained--even when learning a lesson means feeling pain.

Believing in loss means we focus on the grief, on the pain, on the tragedy, on the inescapable reality of certain events. Believing in loss means we get fixated on what was taken from us, what we did wrong. We judge ourselves and our lives harshly. Believing in loss often means we stay stuck. We're afraid to let go of a person, place or thing that's no longer right for us because we're afraid to lose anything more.

Do you believe in loss? Or do you believe in life?

Believing in life means it's okay to let go. We can trust where we've been. We trust where we're going. And we're right where we need to be now. Believe in life."

Jeff would certainly be proud of his sister, her efforts to locate him, and the graceful acceptance of her painful life’s lessons.

How ironic that Wanda while searches for the truth about Jeff, she finds a truth about life.

You can read more about Jeff, and see additional photos on his family’s website for him:

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Goodbye Tamika

I never knew you, Tamika, but I did want to thank you.

I received the news today that you were gone from this life. I knew before this day things that gave those who loved you not much hope that you were still with us.

One would think we would then be prepared for the news that the man who took your life had been arrested for his crime. I don't think anyone can ever be prepared for news like this.

It took away the last shred of hope to which we still clung. Hope that you had somehow survived, hope that perhaps your were recovering and would come back to your loved ones soon. That hope is gone, as is the angelic light that shone from your face.

That light may be gone in this place, but it shines on forever elsewhere.

It was at the end of June 2004, when I started conversing with your family as they struggled with your disappearance and at the same time, were learning about the many things that needed to be done to help bring you home.

Once they discovered you were absent from their lives, they all sprang to action, like soldiers to a battlefield. They quickly took their places and the roles appropriate to their skills and talents. Everyone worked tirelessly to bring you home, even through their tears.

I started conversing with your aunt Rebkah in July of 2004. I'm sure she never expected that she would need to use her public relations expertise to help find you. She fought and fought and never gave up the battle to get national media attention for your case. I knew if anyone could climb the insurmountable hill of media coverage for missing minorities, it would be Rebkah Howard.

Why? Because she loved you and trusted in God's timing and providence.

She and I were like two ships sailing under a dark sky. We were going the same direction, but just in different lanes. It was often quite turbulent in these waters, and the relentless waves of apathy swept over us, night after night.

When your aunt conquered one mountain, she started back up another. In the past few months, she broke ground for media coverage for missing minorities.

USA Today was one of those major media outlets to stand up and listen to her. They published a story about you, and followed up with a story about the lack of media coverage for missing males. We were included in that story.

Quite a few people asked me how I was able to get in USA Today. I tell them that I did not get in the USA Today because of my own actions. It was because your aunt did not just tell those who would listen your story. One of the other stories she told was our story, which in turn tells the stories of many.

Because of that article, my own son's photo was shown on the Fox national news several times. I was given the opportunity to speak about what we do and about Jason's story. The article also spawned several talk radio show interviews, in which I was able to share our cause with all who would listen.

And this all happened because of you, Tamika.

Your aunt says that the stories about your disappearance are now sometimes stories about the lack of coverage for missing minorities. It's almost as if you were the "poster child" for missing minorities.

Did perhaps your death to this life serve as a springboard to wake up the media in regards to the uneven coverage of missing persons?

I know there is a purpose to everything, and sometimes a purpose we do not quite understand or comprehend. Was this your purpose?

Just as your aunt & I were like two ships in the night, so are you and my son. I find it a miracle that a person who is not even with us could have such an impact on lives. Everything we share is in my son's name, and is done because of him and because he disappeared. It is a bittersweet pill to swallow.

Of course, we don't know what happened to Jason, but Tamika, if you should see him where you are, could you please tell him we said hello and that we love him?

Thank you, Tamika for your life, your story, and the opportunity it has given to countless others, including my own family.

May your own lovely voice be heard along with that of the angels.

To read more about Tamika's story, please see the website

Friday, August 12, 2005

Update to "Hometown Girl" Story

Tom and Jane Zachman are on that long road back to Grand Island once again.

This time they are making the drive with joy in their hearts, as they have their miracle.

Jennifer has been found, alive!

Once again, the people of Grand Island came through. Rita, a woman who had been very helpful to Tom and Jane on their last visit, saw Jennifer walking along a road south of town. She called the State Patrol. It was indeed Jennifer.

The State Patrol picked her up, and she is now in a Grand Island hospital under observation. She was malnourished and dehydrated.

To Tom and Jane, the real story is that Jennifer has been found alive, not what she was doing since mid-July. They also want the emphasis to be on what the help and concern of the people of Grand Island meant to them.

There were many people cited, but they don't remember all of the names right now. The urgency in getting to Jennifer is primarily in their minds.

Jolene from the pawn shop and Rita from the jewelry store are at the top of the list. The United Way let the Zachmans use their office to make phone calls. The employees at Office Max helped with flyers.

Tom and Jane were overwhelmed by the support given to them by people of Grand Island and the surrounding communities. He said "their concern made the difference". And indeed it has.

"When another day went by without word on Jennifer, we began to think the worst. After all of this time, we were pretty sure something bad had happened to her. To get that phone call that she was found was wonderful and unexpected. We are very overjoyed," Tom related via cell phone on his journey back to his daughter.

The Zachmans want to make sure the people of central Nebraska know how much their help meant to them. Because of their kindness and willingness to take action, they now get to be reunited with their daughter.

I figured out which jewelry shop was the one where Rita, the woman who spotted Jennifer, works. It was the one where my engagement ring was purchased.

It's a small world, and its a good world.

Thank you Grand Island for proving it.
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