A parent’s worst nightmare.
Often, when children go missing the outcome is a happy one.
When it’s not, it is critical to have the necessary resources, but even more important is preventing those situations in the first place.
Enter Mark Bott and Operation Kidsafe.
Bott is an internationally-known child-safety advocate and was instrumental in development of programs like Amber Alert in Canada and the United States and worked for years with John Walsh of the television program, America’s Most Wanted, in the defence of children.
As part of his swing through British Columbia, Bott will be in Penticton Monday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. to drop off some state-of-the-art identification equipment at Huber Bannister Chevrolet that will remain there for a year.
“Will a set of fingerprints ultimately save a child? Probably not, but attracting them to getting this done gives them pertinent information and allows them to impart this advanced information to the child,” said Bott in a telephone interview from Victoria. “We use the same machine that FBI and secret service use. It will digitally photograph and fingerprint a child in about 60 seconds or less. No ink, no film and no mess and the parents take home the only record of the visit called a bio-document.”
On the back of the document are the key components which Bott, a 59-year-old father of seven, hopes parents and kids will turn into their own safety action plan which he says 80 per cent of families don’t have.
“The biggest myth in the child-safety business is that kids are afraid of safety,” he said.“Not true, adults are afraid to talk to their kids about safety. I was.
“I’m a poster person for that fear.
“I never wanted to talk to my kids about this stuff, I thought that I would freak them out. Well, guess what? Kids are smart, they understand safety.”
Bott is making other stops in Victoria, Kelowna, Vernon and Salmon Arm to install similar pieces of equipment.
So far in North America over one million children have been served by Operation Kidsafe. Huber Bannister’s Jody Sanders is overseeing the program for the dealership and with four and six-year-old kids of her own, knows the feelings of having children go missing, even briefly.
“Your heart drops and you want to throw up and then they come running around the corner,” she said. “No we don’t have an emergency plan so we’re definitely going to have it done.”
The Kidsafe kickoff at the dealership located as 933 Westminster Ave. West is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. and people are welcome to bring their children.
Anyone wanting more information about the program can call Sanders at 250-493-2333.