Omaha Family Magazine
September 2009Sixth Annual Miles for the Missing
The most important people at Zorinsky Lake Park on the morning of Sept. 13 will, sadly, be conspicuous by their absence. They are the focus of the sixth annual bike ride and walk, “Miles for the Missing,” an event open to the public and created to bring attention to the thousands of people – young, old, men, women – who go missing every year in the United States.
The public is invited to participate in this fun and healthy outing while they learn about family safety (preregister online by September 3rd register at http://www.projectjason.org/miles.html
). In the Omaha area alone (Douglas and Sarpy counties), there are 222 missing persons.
Members of several of those families will be on hand to share their personal stories of this painful phenomenon that, in fact, occurs with no regard to social or economic status. “They are all loved by someone and deserve to be found,” says Kelly Jolkowski, advocate for the missing and founder of Project Jason, an organization she began in 2003 to assist and advise families desperate to locate a loved one who has vanished. Jolkowski’s son, Jason, was 19 when he failed to meet a co-worker for a ride to work in June of 2001 and hasn’t been seen since.
Jolkowski and Project Jason have become major influencers as they educate lawmakers, drive laws that ensure better handling of missing persons cases, train law enforcement, and provide one-on-one assistance to individuals distraught over the unknown whereabouts of a child, sibling, spouse, or parent.
At “Miles for the Missing,” families receive free Personal ID Kits to make them selfprepared in the event someone close – from an infant to a grandparent – goes missing. The kit contains a list of the first steps to take under such circumstances, along with a one-stop, time-saving, valuable collection of information that law enforcement would need in order to hit the ground running.
Encouraging moms, dads, kids and local passers-by will be I.D. Kitty – Project Jason’s six-foot, warm and fuzzy, friendly mascot – kids love him! He believes ID kits are a good idea for everybody, and he is happy to pose for family photos.
Fifty members of the public participated in last year’s “Miles for the Missing.” Families of five area missing persons were also in attendance –
two of whom have since had positive outcomes, their fear and anxiety finally relieved when their loved ones were found alive. “For families of the missing, there is always hope, and when those who were missing are located and are safe, we know our work is having a direct impact,” says Jolkowski.
Zorinsky Lake Park is a beautiful setting for this important-yet-casual outing, with the 250-acre lake serving as a backdrop for families and individuals who may bike or walk any distance (or laps) along the seven mile perimeter paved trail. Check-in starts at 9:30 a.m. at Shelter #2 located on the northeast side of the lake near the 156th Street entrance. Volunteers, water, and first aide will be provided until the event
concludes at 2 p.m.
Entry fees for “Miles for the Missing” are used to purchase visual aids for the families of the missing, such as posters and photo buttons. Project Jason never charges families for its services. On hand again this year will be relatives of local missing persons. They’ll be identified with special name tags and will briefly talk about their missing loved ones before the ride/walk begins.
With miles to go before they sleep, Project Jason is dedicated to finding answers to alleviate the unique pain each missing person provokes, while making others aware of (and ready for) the pitfalls that arise should such a tragedy strikes. Says Jolkowski: “More than 14,500 people
have taken advantage of our free Personal I.D. kits. We look forward to increasing that amount as we hand out these free kits that