When Marc Klaas’ 12-year-old daughter Polly was kidnapped from a slumber party at her mother’s home, never to be seen alive again, he made a point to help prevent such a tragedy from happening to another family.
As part of that effort, the KlaasKids Foundation and the Beam Easy Living Center will host the 10th annual Klaas Kids Print-A-Thon in Grass Valley today to promote and educate families about child safety and provide fingerprints, photographs and DNA collection kits at no cost.
“We wanted to give some meaning to her death and provide a legacy in her name,” Klaas told The Union. “I didn’t want my daughter to be another statistic.”
Polly Klaas was missing for 65 days after her kidnapper broke into the house, tied up, gagged and bound her friends and took her.
“She was found on a pile of garbage on a freeway on-ramp in Cloverdale,” Klaas said.
Klaas said there are fortunately more resources available today than when his daughter was kidnapped, during a time when Amber Alerts and Megan’s Law were nonexistent.
“The next kid that’s kidnapped is going to have many more tools available to assist them than we had,” Klaas said. “I think there has been a tremendous change in law enforcement protocols and their ability to respond to these types of situations.”
As part of those tools, today’s event will include child safety tips and a nine-point plan on what to do if your child disappears.
Klaas became a child safety expert and began the nonprofit foundation that has photographed more than 1 million children since its inception and provides families with their children’s confidential and personal information. Beam Security Systems is underwriting the program to make the event free to families.
“We also provide parents with a user-friendly and safe environment to start talking about safety with their kids because it’s very difficult oftentimes for parents to broach that subject,” Klaas said.
Klaas was invited by the Beam Easy Living Center to host the event, which has had a high turnout each year, even with the relatively small local community.
“They’ve really turned their event into a monster community event, and it’s been consistent year after year,” Klaas said.
Brian O’Brien, vice president of Beam Easy Living Center in Grass Valley, attended a first alert conference 10 years ago, where he met Klaas, and has hosted the Child Safety Day ever since.
“He had put on a presentation about the partnering up of First Alert and doing the digital non-database photo and fingerprint ID programs,” O’Brien said. “We became good friends and decided to bring this thing to the people of Nevada County.”
The event includes local law enforcement and fire protection agencies and fun activities to engage children, O’Brien said, complete with hot dogs, snow cones, popcorn and a prize table.
“It was my goal to do that in a way that kids would absorb all of the information these agencies had,” O’Brien said. “To combine the fire and protection agencies to meet with kids in a fun and festive manner and make sure there wasn’t any pressure on parents.”
O’Brien also felt that the event was a way to give back to the community.
“It’s just an even bigger fit with the community that trusted their security in us in other ways, to support their children with that as well,” O’Brien said, adding that Marc Klaas has made a deal to always attend the event, which makes it even more worthwhile.
“The support of the community makes this whole thing work and be free, where parents can come and let their kids enjoy this event and not have their kids tugging on them to buy things,” O’Brien said. “It really makes this special and allows people to get the full range of the event.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.