Wal Mart gives $500K to child advocacy group


It was a good day for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

As the Old Town-based advocacy group prepared for National Missing Childrens Day Friday May 25, their president and CEO Ernie Allen got a call from Bentonville, Ark. from a senior executive from Wal Mart Stores. The world’s largest retailer, ranked by Forbes magazine as the world’s largest company, was making a cash gift to redesign the center’s web site. 

Not just any gift, mind you, a $500,000 windfall. It was one of the largest gifts ever to the group.

As part of its commitment to help reunite missing children with their families, Wal-Mart said Thursday it was donating the funds to help the NCMEC redesign its web site (www.missingkids.com ), which Allen calls a crucial tool in the search for missing children and efforts to stop child abduction and sexual exploitation worldwide.

“With 675,000 unique visitors each month, this site is crucial to our mission,” Allen said.  The advent of technology has revolutionized the way we assist law enforcement in missing and exploited child cases. Our web site allows us to engage citizens around the world in these efforts. 

Currently NCMECs web site includes photos of missing children, prevention materials, resources for victims, their families, and the professionals that serve them.

Allen said the group was grateful to Wal-Mart for their continued generosity, from running in-store poster campaigns to outfitting trucking fleets with technology that enables drivers to receive missing alerts about children, Wal-Mart has developed a number of initiatives to help locate missing children.

More than 4,000 Wal-Mart Stores, neighborhood markets, distribution centers and Sams Club locations post pictures of missing children in storefronts, alerting shoppers and associates to be on the lookout for missing children. Wal-Mart says it has helped to recover more than 164 children since 1996.
In 1994, Code Adam was rolled out at Wal-Mart and Sams Club locations, and has become one of the nations largest child safety programs. The system alerts associates that a child has been reported missing in the store; associates immediately stop their normal work to search for the child and monitor exits to help prevent the child from leaving. The system has been shared with other companies and today there are Code Adam partners in more than 70,000 locations across the country.
Additionally, with more than 8,000 drivers, 7,000 tractors and 45,000 trailers, Wal-Mart enlists the help of its giant fleet to stay alert for missing children on the nations highways. Through its proprietary Roadwatch program, using QUALCOMM technology, truck drivers receive alerts about missing children. Wal-Mart is also a member of the AMBER Alert Highway Network. 

 Considering that there is a Wal-Mart or Sams Club in just about every community in the United States, we are in a unique position to help search for and reunite missing children with their loved ones, and we are happy to contribute in this important process to keep our children safe, said Ray Bracy, senior vice president of Wal-Mart Corporate Affairs.

This was not the first gift from Wal Mart, according to Allen. Since 1994, Wal-Mart has contributed $2 million and numerous in-kind donations to the center, including a $500,000 donation in honor of National Missing Childrens Day 2006.

Since its establishment in 1984, the non-profit center at Prince and So. Washington Streets has assisted law enforcement with 130,000 missing child cases, resulting in the recovery of 113,000 children. Its congressionally mandated CyberTipline, a reporting mechanism for child sexual exploitation, has handled more than 475,000 leads.

For more information about NCMEC, call its toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST or visit its web site at www.missingkids.com.