How we began and the need for transition. . .
On Oct. 22, 1989, 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted from a group of three boys. In 2016, we finally were given answers about Jacob and were able to lay him to rest. The hope for Jacob that grew over those 27 years became a hope for all missing children and an energy to build a world worthy of its children. Jacob’s Hope continues to inspire us every day as we work to make things better for children and youth in Jacob’s name.
When Jacob was taken in 1989, friends and community members joined with Jacob’s parents, to begin the journey of what is now JWRC. These friends decided to turn their anger, sadness and fear into a groundswell of action to protect other children. In 1990, “Friends for Jacob”, later named “Jacob Wetterling Foundation”, and now named “Jacob Wetterling Resource Center” was formed by Jerry and Patty Wetterling along with many committed members in the community. Their mission was to educate the public about who takes children, how they do it and what each of us can do to stop it. They turned their pain into action to help others.
Today, people often tell us, “I know where I was when Jacob was taken.” That defining moment in time continues to impact people throughout Minnesota, Jacob’s home state and in nearly every corner of the world.
Since 1989, many things have changed within our families, community and the world at large. Our prevention work expanded into the positives and negatives of technology. Our first fundraiser was for a new invention called the fax machine. How quickly things change! Thankfully, the power of connected and caring adults remain an important prevention piece for every decade.
The public began to ask for laws that would help supervise and rehabilitate convicted sex offenders, so JWF responded by advocating to pass Jacob’s Law in Minnesota and throughout the United States. The public needed a missing child emergency response system, so JWF responded, helping to launch the A.M.B.E.R. Plan in Minnesota, used in the most severe cases of missing children.
Sometimes children or teens go missing at the hands of non-family members, sometimes at the hand of family members and sometimes they run away from abusive homes to land on the streets where they become prey for those who seek to exploit them. Sometimes they are “thrown away” or “trafficked” for profit or personal gain. We work to prevent crimes against children knowing that every child deserves to be safe.
With the need for more proactive prevention trainings and materials, Jacob Wetterling Foundation became Jacob Wetterling Resource Center in September 2008 with new online and in person resources to help build safer communities for our children and teens.
The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center merged with the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center in February 2010. The move was an effort to combine the groups’ resources and strengthen their common efforts to ensure every child grows up in a healthy, safe world free from abuse, exploitation and abduction.
In September of 2016 we learned the very sad news that Jacob was found deceased. We did not want Jacob’s story to end this way. In that moment of pain and shock, we went back to the beginning. The Wetterlings had a choice to walk into bitterness and anger or to walk into a light of what could be, a light of hope. Their choice continues to change the world.
Today, we gather around the same flame continuing to work in prevention, education, and advocacy so that other children can grow up safe and free from any harm. We encourage people to live out Jacob’s traits and be involved in the #11forJacob campaign to create a better world. Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob’s Hope a light that will never be extinguished. It shines on in a different way. We are, and we will continue to be, Jacob’s Hope.