Once again my stomach knots up and the awful memories return as I read about another senseless murder of an innocent child.
This time, it’s 8-year-old Maddy Middleton. I feel her parents’ pain and I know every moment of everything they’re feeling, because I had the same experience 20 years ago.
On Aug. 7, 1995, my 10-year-old son, Christopher, went missing from our small village of Aroma Park, Illinois.
As the authorities and volunteers searched, my entire being was consumed by pain that I couldn’t stop no matter what I did. I kept thinking, “When am I going to wake up?”
When Christopher’s badly decomposed body was found, blessings were the last thing I could ever think of.
Once that all consuming grief began to subside, I knew that I couldn’t just sit and wallow in self pity. I was angry that my son had been taken in such a violent manner. Then I realized that anger is a powerful energy. And so I decided to redirect that energy into something positive. I needed to find blessings within this catastrophe.
The blessings have come in the way of learning the statistics of missing children and what needs to be done to protect them. I chose to create a nonprofit organization: Christopher’s Clubhouse. We provide safety education and prevention programs to children, families, teens and women.
Also this year, I teamed up with Cavalry PR, an agency that shares my vision. Together, when crisis strikes, we provide our clients with a broader range of services than they’re going to find anywhere else — not only helping them manage and share their story but also helping them as individuals desperate to have someone by their side who truly understands what they’re going through and who has the background and the resources to help them in myriad ways.
The majority of us go about our daily lives believing that all is well in the world. We are saddened to occasionally hear about the missing or murdered child, never hearing about the other 800,000. We have faith that our ‘system’ will take care of the offenders and absconders and believe that it will never touch our lives. Most of us feel very blessed, we have a roof over our head and food on the table.
I am blessed that I have the strength to move forward and work to better our communities for our children. I am blessed that, after catastrophe touched my life, I was able to redirect that anger into relentless advocacy for children and for victims.
But on days like this, when I’m thinking about how Madyson Middleton’s body was discovered in a Dumpster in her own neighborhood in Santa Cruz, not far from where she was last seen riding her scooter, it’s tough not to be angry. These tragedies have to stop.