The Jacksonville Jaguars gave parents an education on child safety on the opening day of training camp as the club invited the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and United States Secret Service (USSS) to camp to distribute materials to the crowd.
The NCMEC is partnering with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) to help raise awareness of the importance of child safety. Fans in attendance were provided with free fingerprint cards containing biographical data, a current photograph and digitized, and inkless fingerprints for parents of children.
The NFLPA and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children joined forces last year in an effort to create public awareness of missing children in the United States. The NCMEC, NFLPA and the Jacksonville Jaguars launched their first event together last year at the club's preseason game against Atlanta.
The goal for the NFLPA and NCMEC is to work with several NFL teams on similar events throughout the 2006 season. Utilizing the model created by the NFLPA, NCMEC and the Jaguars, interested clubs will have the opportunity to conduct similar events without issues. The markets that have been identified by the NCMEC as having the greatest need for stadium events (due to the high volume of missing children) are: Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, San Diego and Miami.
"The partnership with the NFL that we started last year has been very effective," said Elliott. "Our event at training camp has worked better than I thought it would. There were a lot more kids out here than I thought would be, and they were very receptive and it was a fun day for everybody."
The NCMEC presented materials and had interactive activities geared toward child safety. In addition, children were able to interactively participate in fun activities and internet games offered by the NetSmartz Workshop, an interactive resource that teaches kids and teens how to stay safer on the Internet.
The crowd was informed of some current statistics that raised eyebrows among parents. On average 2,100 children are reported missing each day in the United States, which totals nearly 790,000 in a one-year span. More than 198,000 of those children are involuntarily missing with more than 58,000 children abducted by non-family members.
The USSS and their safety initiative, Operation Safe Kids, joined NCMEC in safety education at training camp. The Forensic Service Division (FSD) of the USSS and Operation Safe Kids provided parents with the complimentary fingerprint card.
"I have so much concern about my sons especially my youngest son because he goes out when I'm not home," said Samantha Miller, a single mother of two attending the practice with her youngest son, Bruce. "When I'm not at home he's out playing. I always tell him to at least let me know what he has on so in case something was to happen to him I can have something to report. I try to get new fingerprints of my son every year."
Bruce is a huge fan of the Jaguars, especially running back Fred Taylor. When asked if he thought his mom was happy about him getting fingerprinted he replied, "Yes," with a big grin on his face. He also thought it was pretty cool getting his picture taken.
Haley Thompson of Netsmartz Workshop Education, a division of NCMEC, thought the day was a positive.
"Basically we are out here to let everyone know about internet safety and trying to get prevention out there," Thompson said. "The brochures have information for parents and a website for kids to go to that does not link to any outside sources as well as an acronym list to let parents know what teens are saying online."
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was established in 1984 by John and Reve Walsh in wake of the abduction and murder of their six-year-old son, Adam Walsh.