Free Air Transportation And Hotel Accommodations Announced
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Offers of free air transportation and hotel accommodations to help reunite families when a missing child is found were announced Friday on the eve of Missing Children’s Day.
They provide ″the missing link we have needed desperately,″ Sen. Paula Hawkins, D-Fla., told a news conference. When a missing child is found, parents often have financial problems getting together with the child, she said.
World Airways, Inc., said it is establishing a program called ″Operation Homeward Bound″ that will provide free air transportation to reunite missing children with their families.
Quality Inns International said it will provide overnight accommodations to parents and their child as they are reunited.
Jay Howell, executive director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told a news conference, ″the phenomenal support the center has been receiving from the private sector has aided our efforts tremendously.″
He said there has been a 300 percent increase in sightings of missing children since Feb. 1. Since the center opened in June 1984 with federal funding, it has been involved in the return of about 870 children to their families, Mrs. Hawkins said.
World Airways also said it will run pictures of missing children in its in- flight magazine and Quality Inns said it will display such pictures in its lobbies.
The two firms joined a growing list of private companies that are aiding in the search for missing children by displaying pictures in such places as milk cartons and on moving vans.
Missing Children’s Day on Saturday observes the sixth anniversary of the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz while he was walking to school in New York City. Efforts to find him helped arouse national concern over the plight of missing children. He is still missing.
There have been several congressional hearings this week on the subject of missing children and a breakfast Friday with representatives of corporations aiding in the search for missing children. No special observances are planned Saturday, Howell said.
About 1.5 million children are reported missing yearly in the United States. Many are runaways or parental abduction cases, Howell said.
″No parent is prepared to have their child gone. It’s probably the worst horror that could happen to you,″ said Patty Bradbury of Huntington Beach, Calif., whose 3-year-old daughter Laura disappeared while camping with her family last Oct. 18. She is still missing.
″We just pray Laura will be one of those who can use World Airways’ program and that we can be united with her soon,″ she said.
World Airways flies to Baltimore-Washington, Newark-New York, Honolulu, London, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Oakland-San Francisco and Frankfurt, Germany. It will provide transportation anywhere it flies.
Quality Inns International, which includes Quality Inn, Comfort Inn or Quality Royale, has more than 700 facilities in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Michael Henderson, director of public affairs for World Airways, said it will rely on the national center to screen and evaluate requests for aid.