May 22 balloon release
Ceremony will focus on children still missing
More than 800 helium balloons, each personalized with the name of a missing child, will be set adrift over Reynoldsburg May 22 in an early observance of National Missing Children's Day.
The balloons will be released after school assemblies at 11:50 a.m. May 22 at Reynoldsburg BELL Academy, 6699 E. Livingston Ave., and at 1:15 p.m. the same day at Reynoldsburg Encore Academy, 8579 Summit Road.
Reynoldsburg City Councilman Cornelius McGrady III and the Ohio Attorney General's office are presenting the assemblies at the two high schools.
McGrady provides sexual trafficking and assault awareness for the U.S. Army.
May 25 is National Missing Children's Day.
He said the public is welcome to attend both assemblies, which will be presented at no charge. Reynoldsburg DECA students at the two academies will be involved in blowing up the balloons and helping with the events.
"This is also a part of our effort to bring awareness to human trafficking," he said. "With more than 4,000 children reported missing from Franklin County and our surrounding counties alone last year, the community needs more awareness on this issue."
Vicki Germann and Carter Stewart, both from the Ohio Attorney General's Office, will be guest speakers at the assemblies.
Germann said in light of the recent news from Cleveland, where three women who were abducted as children escaped their captor after 10 years as prisoners in a run-down house, people should know what to do if they see anything suspicious involving a young person.
"It takes a community to protect our children," she said. "If anyone notices anything suspicious, they should contact local law enforcement immediately. If you see a child that you feel is in danger, intervene. Don't be afraid to get involved."
She said the purpose of the assemblies is "prevention."
"We are trying to raise awareness so teens and young adults are aware of their surroundings," she said. "We don't want to scare the students, we just want to encourage them to be thinking safety and be mentally prepared in case something happens."
Germann said a part of prevention is the need to be "mindful of how crimes are perpetrated and understand when children are most at risk."
"High school students are at the age when they get out on their own, so they need to be prepared," she said. "We don't want anything happening to them, especially if it can be prevented."
She said there were 18,219 reports of missing children in Ohio in 2012. However, 98.8 percent of those children were recovered. The balloons that will be released will bear the names of children who have yet to be found.
Attorney General Mike DeWine's most recent newsletter mentioned Reynoldsburg DECA students' assemblies on human trafficking. Those students, with adviser Kim Pennycuff, have brought in speakers such as Marlene Carson, who is the founder of Rahab's Hideaway in Columbus.
Carson was tricked and kidnapped from her Columbus home at the age of 15 and sold into prostitution in New York. She has been an international spokeswoman about the human trafficking problem and is the founder of a program to help women escape sex slavery.
McGrady said the ages of boys, girls and women who are currently being trafficked can range from age 8 to mid-40s. He said victims are often "recruited" by advertisements for jobs and that many runaway teens end up as victims.